An Assembly panel on Thursday approved a bipartisan bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Gabriela Mosquera to increase support services for domestic violence victims and their families and improve intervention services for offenders.
The four-bill package was born out of recommendations contained in the June 2016 Report of the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence.
"The collateral damage inflicted on children of domestic violence can be devastating and long-lasting. Boosting therapeutic services for them can help mitigate this damage," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "This bill package represents a comprehensive effort to increase support services statewide and treat offenders in the hope of reducing domestic violence rates and vastly improving the lives of victims and their families."
The first bill (A-4015), sponsored by Singleton and Vainieri Huttle, would require the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to establish and maintain a statewide, evidenced-based program to provide grants to providers for developing and implementing therapeutic treatment, counseling, and supportive services to children and their family members who have been exposed to domestic violence.
The bill would codify the existing therapeutic treatment program for children and families of domestic violence victims, which is currently only available in 11 counties, and expand it statewide.
"Our goal is to reduce emotional scarring on children so that these innocent young people do not carry these wounds with them into adulthood," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "These bills are part of our continued, concerted effort to combat this insidious behavior while lending our support to victims and their children."
The second bill (A-4016), also sponsored by Singleton and Vainieri Huttle, stipulates that when a court orders a defendant in a domestic violence proceeding to receive professional domestic violence counseling, the mandatory counseling could consist of a Batterers' Intervention Program, which would be required to have the following components:
- Periodic, ongoing risk assessments to protect the safety of the victim and any children;
- Offender accountability as a central component, requiring that offenders be held accountable for their behavior, and provided with services geared towards behavioral change;
- Information and education concerning the tactics of power and control and the understanding of domestic violence as a domination and control issue;
- A swift and certain compliance protocol, including a prompt and effective review by the court for noncompliance; and
- Regular reviews of the program and compliance audits by the courts and designated domestic violence advocacy groups.
The third measure (AR-162), sponsored by Singleton, Mosquera and Vainieri Huttle, urges the New Jersey Supreme Court to create a Technology Task Force within the court's State Domestic Violence Working Group in order to resolve systemic issues facing the courts with respect to domestic violence matters.
"When dealing with an issue like domestic violence, which spans geographic and socio-economic boundaries, it requires a shift in the cultural mindset in order to truly effect change," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "Coordinating the efforts of the courts with state, local and county services will help us take an all hands on deck approach to achieve this change."
The last measure (AR-163), sponsored by Singleton and Mosquera, urges the New Jersey Supreme Court and the Attorney General to revise their jointly-created County Domestic Violence Working Groups to add additional members who are focused on domestic violence matters at the local level and require the groups to collect and maintain up-to-date information regarding available domestic violence programs and services.
The entire bill package was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.