by Ron Dancer, ASM, NJ
TRENTON, N.J. – Court-ordered domestic violence counseling for offenders would be required to meet new uniform standards under a bill cleared by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday and sponsored by Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz and Assemblyman Ron Dancer.
Stemming from the 2015 Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence recommendations, the bill (A229) requires counseling programs to emphasize behavioral change, educate offenders on power and control issues, and implement attendance reporting protocols. The sponsors say it will also enhance victim safety.
“The safety of domestic violence survivors has never felt more threatened than during the pandemic lockdowns. Increasing calls for help during this time have underscored the need to regulate domestic violence counseling so that we can be sure programs are properly prioritizing victims and holding offenders accountable for their actions,” said Munoz (R-Union), who also served as a member of the 2015 committee.
According to the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, requests for domestic violence services jumped 20% in 2020. Many domestic violence programs reported that calls for help spiked 40% to 70% compared to the prior year. One program recorded a 188% increase in the number of shelter nights provided to survivors and their children in the last quarter of 2020, and another had the highest number of hotline calls they had received in 10 years.
“This bill protects domestic violence survivors and their families by making sure counseling providers are working from the same essential standards and toward the same goals,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “Court-ordered domestic violence counseling can be the difference between life and death so it’s critical we get it right.”
Under the bill, counseling programs would be subject to regular review by the courts and domestic violence prevention advocacy groups.