Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Jamel Holley and Joann Downey to strengthen protections for survivors of sexual assault received final legislative approval unanimously from the General Assembly on Monday.
The bill (A-4207) modifies the scope of the "Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015," as well as the enforcement of protective orders under the provisions of that act that help protect victims from offenders who committed actual or attempted nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness.
Vainieri Huttle was the lead sponsor of the original law, which expanded the availability of restraining orders to a greater number of sexual assault survivors. Prior to that law, in order to pursue a protective order, a victim must have had a previous or existing domestic relationship with the offender, such as a spousal or dating relationship, or had to file a criminal complaint against the offender.
"This bill will augment the landmark Sexual Assault Survivors Act to make it work even better for victims, bringing them greater protection and peace of mind," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "These changes will help tighten the law and eliminate any vagueness that might stand in the way of helping a victim secure protection."
Specifically, the provisions of the bill:
- Require the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families to investigate and possibly pursue legal action when allegations of misconduct against an unemancipated minor by a parent, guardian, or other person having care, custody and control of that minor child, are reported by another parent or guardian. The division could also petition the Superior Court for a protective order and other relief on behalf of the reporting parent or guardian and the unemancipated minor;
- Recognize and provide for the enforcement of protective orders entered under the provisions of a substantially similar sexual assault protection statute under federal law or the laws of another state; and
- Distinguish between indictable and non-indictable violations of protective orders and any such violation, whether representing an indictable or non-indictable offense, would be adjudicated in Superior Court.
"When it comes to sexual assault and its aftermath, we need to throw the full weight of the law and our legal protections behind victims," Holley (D-Union). "No one should have to feel alone in this battle."
"The trauma of sexual assault can have lasting emotional repercussions so we need to help assure victims that they will at least be safe from physical repercussions," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "This bill will help strengthen the new law to make sure it does just that."