Domestic Violence

KEEPING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ISSUES AT THE FOREFRONT

It was a little less than a year ago when disturbing images of NFL player Ray Rice’s domestic abuse thrust violence towards women into our national conscience.  While the news headlines and nightly cable news discussions on the topic have subsided to a degree, combating the problems of domestic assault and sexual assault remain in the forefront of my agenda.

The Legislature recently passed A-4078, of which I was a prime sponsor, known as the “Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015”.  Experts in the field of sexual violence state that one of the biggest hurdles to combating sexual assault is the lack of reporting by the victims.  The complex emotions that assault victims may experience, including guilt, shame, embarrassment, and fear, all contribute to the failure to press charges against their attacker.  RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, estimates that 68 percent of sexual assaults in the United States are not reported to authorities, with a resultant 98 percent of assailants never spending a day in jail and free to assault again.  Prior to the passage of A-4078, sexual assault victims were unable to get protection if they had not pressed charges; with passage of the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015, the courts may issue a temporary protective order regardless of whether the victim has filed criminal charges.  The bill prohibits the alleged offender from having any contact or communication, including personal, written, telephone, or via electronic device, with victims and their family members, employers, and employees.   A-4078 was passed by the Assembly in February 2015, and passed by the Senate last month.  I anticipate that the bill will be signed into law soon.

I recently had the honor of accepting an appointment by State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to the Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence.  The committee includes representatives from the three branches of government, with one member of each party from both houses of the Legislature.  The twenty-seven person committee represents a wide range of backgrounds and experience with domestic violence, including judges, lawyers, law enforcement, and New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women.  We have met and are continuing to meet to critically analyze the State’s efforts and policies on combating violence and aiding victims, looking at what we do well in the State and what could be improved.  The committee is working to draft policies and legislation, and make recommendations to the court system to provide excellent and consistent services across the State.

As part of my commitment to addressing the issue of domestic violence, I hosted a roundtable discussion at Kean University on May 27th with stakeholders from the profession of nursing, including chief nursing officers and hospital executives, school nurses, advanced practice psychiatric nurses, nursing educators, nurse attorneys, and the NJ Coalition for Battered Women.  As nurses are largest number of healthcare providers in the US, they are often the first professional interface with a victim of sexual or domestic violence—whether as a patient in the emergency room, or through contact during care for themselves or family members.   It is imperative that all nurses are properly educated and able to handle this delicate situation.  The topics discussed include current hospital policies, course requirements at our schools of nursing, and issues concerning protection of our young victims in the school system.  The goal of our members is to create an atmosphere where victims of domestic violence know they can openly discuss this issue with any nurse, and to create a consistent education model for nurses at all levels.  We are also looking at hospital policies that work well for the victims, and can be extended across the State.  The group will continue to work to reform policies, expand education and training for nursing students and active nurses, and make recommendations to the Board of Nursing.

I am extremely proud of the work we are doing in the State on the issue of domestic and sexual violence.  As a member of the Assembly Women and Children Committee and the Health Committee, I will continue to work on policies to protect women, men and children who are victims. The ad-hoc Committee on Domestic Violence and the members of the Nursing Roundtable will continue to work on recommendations to protect all victims.  We still have work to do, and I remain determined to make sure New Jersey does all it can to protect and support victims.

MUÑOZ HOSTS KEAN UNIVERSITY ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Assemblywoman Nancy F. Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset, led a panel discussion today on domestic violence hosted by Kean University’s Center for History, Politics, & Policy. Muñoz organized the roundtable which included leading nursing organizations, practitioners and professors. The group discussed the education and role of nurses in dealing with domestic violence.“I am committed to addressing the issue of domestic violence and its far reaching effects on our society. I understand the unique and important position nurses occupy in our health system,” said Muñoz. “I want victims of domestic violence to know that they can openly discuss this issue with any nurse. The exchange of information and approaches used in counseling victims is a tremendous benefit for both nurses and those they treat.”

The roundtable included the following organizations: New Jersey League of Nursing; New Jersey State Nurses Association; Society of Psychiatric APN’s; New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault; New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women; New Jersey State School Nurses Association; Kean University School of Nursing; Rutgers University School of Nursing; Barnabas Health; and St. Joseph’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center.

ASSEMBLY ADVANCES MUÑOZ BILL TO PROTECT SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS

Legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors that provides sexual assault victims with protection against their offenders today won General Assembly approval.

The “Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015” (A-4078), allows victims to obtain protection without filing criminal charges.

“Sexual assault is physically and psychologically devastating; and victims too often are embarrassed or feel they are in some way to blame for the attack,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “As a result, only a very small percentage of victims file criminal charges. Unless they report the crime, they cannot obtain a restraining order. This leaves their attacker free to harass or assault them again.”

The bill allows the court to issue a temporary protective order regardless of whether the alleged victim has filed criminal charges. It prohibits the alleged offender from having any contact or communication, including personal, written, telephone or via electronic device, with victims and their family members, employers, and employees.

Under current law, restraining orders are predominately used for victims of domestic violence.

In addition, the measure prohibits stalking, following or harassing, including cyber-harassing, the alleged victim.

ASSEMBLY PANEL ADVANCES MUÑOZ BILL TO PROTECT ADOPTIVE PARENTS AND CHILDREN

Legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors that gives adoptive parents stalking and restraining order protections from the individual(s) who gave up their parental rights to the adopted child today won approval from the Assembly Human Services Committee.

The bill, A-882, amends the state’s current stalking law making it applicable to adoptive children and their former parent(s). It permits an adoptive parent to obtain a temporary restraining order against the person whose parental rights to the child have been terminated if the former parent/guardian has contacted or attempts to contact the child against the adoptive parent’s directions. The order can be made permanent if the person is convicted of stalking.“When a biological parent attempts to contact a child they gave up for adoption, it can undermine the relationship between the child and his or her adoptive parents,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “These children have already been through very difficult times. Initiating unwanted contact often causes more stress for the children as well as their adoptive parents who risk being targets of harassment and stalking. Surprisingly, the law offers them little protection. Adoptive families need to have the same level of protection that’s available in domestic violence cases.”

Under the measure, unwarranted contact would be a third or fourth degree crime, depending on the circumstances associated with stalking. A third degree crime calls for a three to five year prison term, a fine of up to $15,000 or both; a fourth degree crime carries an 18-month prison term, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

CASAGRANDE-MUÑOZ LAUD ASSEMBLY WOMEN AND CHILDREN COMMITTEE FOR ACTION ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

With domestic violence at the forefront of public concern, Assembly Republicans Caroline Casagrande and Nancy F. Muñoz lauded the action taken today by the Assembly Women and Children Committee which released a package of bills addressing the problem. Both Republican legislators are members of the committee.
The 5-bill package requires counseling for domestic violence offenders; establishes the justification of self-defense by victims; creates a program to assist victims reintegrate into society; and permits a witness under age 16 to testify by closed circuit television in domestic crime prosecutions.

“We heard testimony from people on the front lines of domestic violence that the Ray Rice case wasn’t rare,” said Casagrande, R-Monmouth. “Even though common sense dictates that knocking someone unconscious is an attempt to cause serious bodily injury, these charges are frequently downgraded. There is clearly a disconnect between the legislative intent regarding domestic violence and how the law is applied in the courtroom. Reducing charges that allow a violent act to go unpunished trivializes the seriousness of this crime.”

“Physical assault is an act of violence,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “The recent event regarding Ray Rice and his then fiancé brings this important issue to the forefront. The Legislature is committed to protecting the public from violent acts. Today’s bill package addresses the victims’ needs, and we must also make clear there is an intent to punish those guilty of committing this heinous crime.”

Assembly Approves Muñoz Bill Giving Protection to Adoptive Parents

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Republican Deputy Whip Nancy F. Muñoz and approved today by the General Assembly, will give adoptive parents stalking and restraining order protections from the individual(s) who gave up their parental rights to the adopted child.

“Children who are adopted come from all types of backgrounds and homes, including those where abuse and neglect are rampant,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. When people adopt children from such homes they run a great risk of being targets of harassment and stalking from those who relinquished their parental rights. Surprisingly, the law offers them little protection. Neither parent or child should have to live under the constant threat of such cowardly behavior.”

The bill, A-781, amends the current law’s stalking provisions by permitting an adoptive parent to obtain a temporary restraining order against the person whose parental rights to the child have been terminated. Such an order could also be converted into a permanent restraining order upon a judgment of conviction against the person based on a conviction for the crime of stalking.

It makes the crime of stalking and related restraining order protections expressly applicable to situations involving contact or attempted contact between an adoptive child and former parent whose parental rights have been terminated. It makes such an unwarranted contact a third or fourth degree crime, depending upon various circumstances associated with stalking. A  third degree crime is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000 or both; a fourth degree crime carries an 18-month prison term, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

MUÑOZ BILL THAT EXPANDS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTION TO ADOPTIVE PARENTS CLEARS COMMITTEE

Under legislation sponsored by Assembly Republican Deputy Whip Nancy F. Muñoz and approved today by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, adoptive parents would receive protection as domestic violence victims if the perpetrator is a person who gave up parental rights to the adopted child.

“Domestic violence is a devastating social problem that affects all populations, adopted children included who come from all types of backgrounds and homes, including those where abuse and neglect are rampant,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris andSomerset. “When people adopt children from such homes, they run a great risk of being the targets of acts of domestic violence themselves from those who relinquished their parental rights. Surprisingly, the law offers them little protection.

“This legislation is a necessary expansion of the ‘Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991’ as it would extend full protection from acts of domestic violence to the parents of adopted children. For the sake of those parents who are abused or live under the constant threat of such cowardly violence, I strongly encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this measure quickly to law.”

The bill, A-781, amends the definition of “victim of domestic violence” in the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991” to include any parent of an adopted child who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person whose parental rights towards the adopted child have been terminated. It permits a parent of an adopted child to avail himself or herself of the protections afforded by the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991.”