Legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to make it easier for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to obtain restraining orders against their assailants was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
The bill (A-2640) would permit victims to secure restraining orders against perpetrators when no demonstrable personal relationship between the two parties exists, such as when the attacker is a stranger or a casual acquaintance of the victim.
"For too long, we have made it the victim's responsibility to prove that he or she has the fundamental right to be safe," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "With this bill, we reaffirm our commitment to the notion that our residents ought to live free from any form of abuse, no matter who the attacker is."
Under current law, a victim must have a previous or existing relationship with the offender, such as a spousal or dating relationship, in order to pursue a restraining order. Additionally, the defendant must have been charged with or convicted of an offense in order for the victim to obtain a restraining order, a prerequisite the bill would eliminate.
Nineteen other states provide restraining orders for victims of sexual assault without requiring a connecting criminal complaint or conviction.
New Jersey law permits the issuance of a restraining order for several offenses, including but not limited to: assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, harassment and stalking. Violation of a restraining order constitutes a fourth degree contempt offense, generally punishable by 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
The bill was released by the Assembly Women and Children Committee.