(TRENTON) -- Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Daniel R. Benson and Troy Singleton to increase protections for domestic violence victims by making sure local and state agencies are properly prepared to respond to critical incidents was advanced Monday by a Senate panel.
"Domestic violence trauma casts a wide net on both victims and the agencies responsible for combating this violence," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "By making sure that agencies at every level are equipped with the resources to respond effectively and cooperatively, we can hopefully provide victims with swifter assistance to ease the pain and psychological trauma."
The bill (A2899) directs the Division on Women to audit the effectiveness of state, county and local response to domestic violence by sponsoring, at the county and local level, community safety and accountability audits throughout the state.
Specifically, the audit shall include a systematic analysis of intra-agency and interagency policies and procedures used by, including: law enforcement agencies and the court system when investigating and prosecuting cases of domestic violence-related fatalities and near fatalities, as appropriate; and state and local agencies and organizations when providing services to victims of domestic violence.
"Communication and preparedness are key to responding effectively to domestic violence incidents," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "A victim's life may be in the balance at any given moment. If the responding agency is properly equipped and trained to assist the victim and deal with the perpetrator, it can make all the difference."
"Ensuring we have the proper protections in place for domestic violence victims is quite simply the right thing to do," said Singleton (D-Burlington)."We need to ensure we have the best and most effective programs in place. Doing so can save lives."
The bill contains recommendation #4 from a 2006 report produced by the New Jersey Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board, which based its findings on a review of domestic violence-related homicide and suicide cases.
The Board found from case reviews that professionals who came in contact with victims failed to demonstrate knowledge about domestic violence that is essential to providing appropriate care, information and referrals to these victims. Moreover, the board found that there was no mechanism in place for these agents to communicate with each other to evaluate the totality of the response provided to the people involved, with the result that no one communicated the danger that existed.
The bill was approved 78-0 by the Assembly in June and released Monday by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.