(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin, Pamela Lampitt, Troy Singleton, Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Gabriela Mosquera to bolster protections against cyber-harassment for domestic violence victims in New Jersey cleared the Assembly on Thursday, 74-0.
The bill (A-1946), sponsored by Coughlin, Lampitt, Singleton, Benson, Vainieri Huttle and Mosquera, would add cyber-harassment to the list of crimes considered domestic violence under the "Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991."
In doing so, the bill would allow temporary and permanent restraining orders on the grounds that the person seeking the order is a victim of cyber-harassment.
"The internet is being used as another way for domestic violence predators to stalk and harass their victims," said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "It's time to put cyber-stalking and harassment on the books to continue to protect domestic violence victims under the law."
"Predators will go to any length to abuse or make their victim feel unsafe," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington), is also chair of the Assembly Women and Children Committee. "Facebook, Twitter, email and other Internet-based services have become tools for perpetrators to inspire fear. Adding this method to the list of domestic violence offenses is necessary to strengthen protections for victims."
"Cyber-harassment, while terrifying in itself, often precedes physical harassment or harm," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "This bill will help provide the protections necessary to hopefully prevent it from escalating to that point."
"When the Domestic Violence Prevention Act was first written, cyber-harassment wasn't even part of our vernacular yet," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Today it's a frightening reality for far too many people, one that must be treated with the same severity as the many other crimes included in our domestic violence statues."
"Domestic violence victims can live in constant fear for their lives," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "We can strengthen the law to protect victims and help ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their threatening and harmful behavior."
"This happens more often than we may realize," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "We must make sure that state law keeps up with the changing times and domestic violence victims are protected by the law in every way an abuser can come up with to terrorize them."
The measure was released by the Assembly Women and Children Committee on February 8. The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.