Six victims’ rights bills were signed into New Jersey law on Monday, after months of campaigning and testimony from local women.
Activists and lawmakers who recognized the urgent need for a justice system that is more respectful and responsive to victims came together to create the package of bills which focuses on making the process of reporting and pursuing justice more transparent.
“Far too often, survivors of sexual assault who have the courage to come forward are victimized a second time,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, a prime sponsor of the legislation.
- (S3072) orders that victims receive an information packet when they make a sexual assault report which explains the relevant laws pertaining to victims of sexual assault, the criminal justice process as it pertains to victims of sexual assault, and the mental health services available to them. It also establishes that there should be a telephone number at the county prosecutor’s office that the victim may call at any time for updates concerning their case.
- (S3071) requires police departments provide a copy of the police report to the victim and provides victims with the option to review the police report and submit corrections. It says a staffer from the county prosecutor’s office shall be named to help victims fill in the correction forms.
- (S3073) establishes right of victims to be notified about whether the county prosecutor will file charges against an offender.
- (S3070) establishes a three-year “Sexual Violence Restorative Justice Pilot Program” in North, Central and South Jersey for survivors who want to seek solutions outside the judicial system.
- (S3074) requires the NJ AG to audit sexual assault cases and issue an annual report with statistics on the number of complaints that were filed, prosecuted or led to plea agreements.
- (S3075) establishes the need for a sexual violence liaison officer to be designated in State Police and local police departments.
- (S3076) requires sexual assault training for prosecutors.
Another pending bill (S3389) calls for training on and implementation of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy in certain political campaign committees. “Political candidates, campaigns and party organizations have a vested interest in suppressing, hiding or ignoring allegations of sexual misconduct to avert political damage or preserve personal power and control,” the bill explains.
In our work supporting victims of sex crimes in NY, NJ and across the country, we can see the urgent need for improvements to our country’s reporting system. Far too often victims leave the precinct feeling out of options – when they do have options.
Our Client Relations Manager Norma Buster was dismissed by New Jersey law enforcement who didn’t understand the law around online sexual violence (you can read more about her case in the New Yorker and in Nobody’s Victim). She says “I was born and raised in New Jersey, and it was disheartening when I went to my local precinct to report my ex’s stalking and revenge porn and was turned away, being told there’s nothing I could do. I left feeling hopeless, despite the fact that there were clearly laws in place that were supposed to protect me. Though New Jersey was one of three states back then in 2015 with a law criminalizing nonconsensual porn, I wasn’t treated like the victim of a crime. I left the precinct several times feeling hopeless and out of options.
I’m happy to see these new laws being passed in my home state and hope it will mean a real change to victims’ experiences reporting to law enforcement. In my case, my lawyers at C.A. Goldberg (now my colleagues!) found a prosecutor in my county who had experience in domestic violence and tech-related cases. He was able to understand what I was going through, he took it seriously, and he updated me throughout the process of the criminal investigation and then subsequent court dates. We need more law enforcers with knowledge and training in sex crimes.”
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