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5/16/17 - The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence and the New Jersey Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board Respond to Increase in Domestic Violence Homicides

2015 proved to be particularly deadly to domestic violence victims. According to the New Jersey State Police, there were 49 domestic violence homicides in New Jersey in 2015, an increase of 16%. Earlier this month, the State Police released their annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Domestic Violence in New Jersey report, which documents the number of domestic violence incidents law enforcement respond to each year. In 2015, law enforcement officers across the Garden State responded to 61,659 incidents of domestic violence, a 1% decrease from 2014. However, the number of domestic violence homicides was the highest documented by the State Police since 2008.
Add to that number the lives lost in domestic violence related incidents of murder-suicide, child fatalities, and the death of bystanders or first responders, all of which are not included in the UCR Domestic Violence Report. Nor does the UCR take into account the suicides committed by victims or perpetrators as a result of domestic violence. When we consider all of these deaths, we know the number of individuals, families and communities impacted by domestic violence fatalities in New Jersey is much greater.
We have this information because of the New Jersey Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board, which has convened since 2000. The mission of this multi-disciplinary Board, which was codified by statute in 2003, is to review the facts and circumstances surrounding domestic violence-related fatalities and near fatalities in New Jersey. This review process identifies risk factors, gaps in services, and provides recommendations to improve our collective effort to respond to and prevent domestic violence. “Domestic violence fatalities are widespread, and have a ripple effect that is devastating not only for the victim’s family and friends, but for our communities and our state as a whole” said Board Co-Chairs Dr. Sarah McMahon who is Associate Director of the Center on Violence Against Women & Children at Rutgers, and Tom Dilts, Judge of the Superior Court (retired).
“The analysis of homicides by the Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board is a critical step toward preventing domestic violence in New Jersey. By identifying the barriers and challenges that victims face to achieve safety, we can develop and implement solutions to reduce domestic violence related deaths,” says Jane Shivas, Executive Director of NJCEDV. “As the Board has identified in their reports, collaborative approaches that focus on victim safety and batterer accountability lead to earlier and more effective interventions, and ultimately, homicide reduction.”
Since 2001, the Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board has released seven reports that are available to the public and put forth specific recommendations to improve systemic responses to domestic violence. The latest report, A Look at the Impact of Teen Dating Violence, was released in February 2017. This report was preceded by a series of fact sheets developed in partnership between the Rutgers School of Social Work’s Center on Violence Against Women and Children, the NJ Coalition to End Domestic Violence, and the NJ Coalition Against Sexual Assault. These fact sheets were distributed through the Department of Education to support dating violence prevention education for students in grades 7 through 12, and available on the Board’s website.
NJCEDV and the Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board are both encouraged by the work that was done by the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence and the 30 recommendations it published in a report last year, some echoing recommendations previously made by the Fatality Review Board. Local initiatives like the Family Justice Centers in Essex and Morris Counties, and the Home Involved Violence Intervention Strategies (HIVIS) Model employed by Gloucester Township Police Department are also encouraging. “It is clear that we need to continue to work to address intimate partner violence as a community issue and one for which we all have responsibility. There is a role for everyone in helping to prevent and address intimate partner violence,” said Dr. McMahon.
Learn more about the NJ Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board and the recommendations they have made to improve domestic violence responses in New Jersey. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship call the Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-572-SAFE or go to www.njcedv.org to learn about the domestic violence programs in your county.

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About the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence:

Known as the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women (NJCBW) for nearly 40 years, the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV) now celebrates a new name as the statewide association dedicated to ending domestic violence and an enhanced mission. The NJCEDV provides leadership, support and resources on the prevention of domestic violence for all victims in New Jersey through advocacy, education and training, technical assistance and community awareness.

Help is Available:

If you want to know if a relationship is abusive or if you suspect abuse, it is important to take it seriously, get information and share resources. Help is available in every county and for every victim through a network of programs dedicated to serving domestic violence victims and their families. The State Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-572-SAFE (7233). You can also find a list of programs and services at www.njcbw.org.

 

Statements & Releases

Statements

9/6/16 - The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence Recognizes 13 Lives Lost to Domestic Violence in July and August

Calls for More Homicide Reduction Efforts

The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV) mourns and remembers the lives lost to domestic violence in July and August 2016. We keep these victims, their families and communities in our thoughts and hearts.

July 7, Carlstadt – Michelle Sabia, 44, was shot and killed by her husband Scott Sabia before killing himself. July 19, Pennsville – Seema Singh, 42, was allegedly stabbed to death by her husband Nitian Singh. July 30, Ridgefield – Mary Jo Osgood, 55, of Rhode Island, was found in the trunk of her ex-husband’s car, dead from gunshot wounds. Frank Osgood, a former police officer, took State Trooper’s on a car chase ending on the NJ Turnpike where he was discovered deceased in the vehicle with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. August 9, Burlington Township – Mashanda Johnson, 48, and her son Trey Johnson, 10, were shot and killed by Rueben Johnson, the victims’ husband and father, before taking his own life. August 17, Ewing – Rufina Castro, 51, was reportedly strangled to death by her boyfriend Carlos Ortiz. August 20, Pennsauken – Jamil Baskerville, 2, was allegedly beaten to death by Zachary Tricoche after a physical altercation with the boy’s mother, reportedly Tricoche’s girlfriend. August 22, Collingswood – Joseline Perez, 36, was stabbed to death by her estranged husband Timothy Moorman. August 26, West Deptford – Edward Coles, Jr., 58, and his wife Rosemarie Coles, 55, were allegedly beaten to death by their son Ryan Coles. While we cannot speak to the specifics of any of the above cases, the victims were adults and children from different backgounds and parts of NJ who represent the broad impact that domestic violence has on our communities. They were parents, sons and daughters, siblings, neighbors, classmates, co-workers and friends. Every domestic violence homicide leaves behind surviving family members, friends, and communities left questioning the events and senseless violence that led to the tragic loss of their loved ones.

In New Jersey, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act recognizes victims of domestic violence as individuals who had a relationship with the perpetrator of violence – a current or former spouse, a current or former dating partner, as well as current or former household members who are often family members. We often discuss domestic violence among married or dating couples, yet the reality is that violence and abuse can occur in any type of intimate or family relationship.

There is no single solution for reducing domestic violence homicides, yet we know it is possible. Models such as the Family Justice Center and Domestic Violence High Risk Teams are being implemented in various parts of the country and show promise in their ability to identify high risk domestic violence offenders. In many cases, these initiatives are leading to safer and more effective interventions. Both models require a strong partnership among many providers including domestic violence advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and hospitals. Such collaborations are guided by the use of the Danger Assessment, a validated evidence-based tool developed by Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Currently, there are two Family Justice Centers operating in New Jersey located in Newark and Morristown.

Mary Houtsma, Director of the Essex County Family Justice Center, states that “the Danger Assessment Instrument (DAI) is utilized with all clients upon intake to identify and prioritize high-risk individuals. The multidisciplinary team at the Family Justice Center with whom the victim chooses to work utilizes the information from the DAI to respond to the victim’s needs and to work with them in developing a safety plan.”

This past August, Dr. Campbell trained approximately 75 domestic violence advocates from across the state who are now certified in the use and administration of the DAI. This vital tool weighs a perpetrator’s pattern of abuse and control along with other high risk factors that have proven to be indicative of potentially fatal domestic violence. The assessment includes questions related to a perpetrator’s unemployment, the presence of children in the relationship that are not the perpetrator’s own, changes in the relationship, history of strangulation, and the presence of firearms – all circumstances that would not ordinarily be identified in a criminal history check, yet significant factors when assessing for potential lethality. As Dr. Campbell has reported, an arrest history is predictive of re-assault, but not homicide; therefore it is necessary to examine the scope of the abuse and not rely solely on a documented history.

NJCEDV is committed to working with our partners and communities to implement solutions that reduce domestic violence homicides and fatalities in New Jersey. Learn more about the Family Justice Centers, Domestic Violence High Risk Team Model, and the DAI via the links below. Follow NJCEDV to learn more about pioneering initiatives, our network of members, and how every New Jersey citizen can be part of the solution that ends domestic violence in the state.

Essex County Family Justice Center: www.EssexCountyFJC.org Morris County Family Justice Center: www.MorrisFJC.org Family Justice Center: www.FamilyJusticeCenter.org Domestic Violence High Risk Team: www.DVHRT.org Danger Assessment: www.DangerAssessment.org New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence: www.NJCEDV.org

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About the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV): Known as the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women (NJCBW) for nearly 40 years, NJCEDV provides leadership, support and resources on the prevention of domestic violence for all victims in New Jersey through advocacy, education and training, technical assistance and community awareness.

Help is Available: To learn if a relationship is abusive or if abuse is suspected, it is important to take it seriously, get information and share resources. Help is available in every county and for every victim through a network of programs dedicated to serving domestic violence victims and their families. The State Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-572-SAFE (7233). A list of programs and services is available at NJCEDV.org

6/30/16 – The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence Recognizes the Eight Lives Lost to Domestic Violence in June and Calls for More Action

As we end this month and move into the holiday weekend where many of us will be celebrating our country’s independence, we must pause to remember the eight lives lost and the communities left mourning as a result of fatal domestic violence incidents that occurred in four communities across New Jersey.

  • June 1, in Fair Lawn, Barbara Tempe, 73, and Rich Tempe, Sr., 76, were shot and killed by their son Rich Tempe, Jr., 53, before setting fire to the home they shared and turning the gun on himself
  • June 10, in New Brunswick, Pradipkum Shah, 53, was shot and killed by his son Vishal Shah, 20
  • June 14, in Jersey City, Monica L. Haddad, 44, was shot and killed by her husband Raymond S. Haddad, 54, before turning the gun on himself
  • June 27, in Springfield, Roth Brown, 51, and her father Thomas Brown, 79, were fatally stabbed by Roth’s son James Brown, 27, in their shared home While all of these cases made headlines, there was little discussion within them regarding domestic violence.

In New Jersey, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act recognizes victims of domestic violence as individuals who had a relationship with the perpetrator of violence — a current or former spouse, a current or former dating partner, as well as a current or former household member. Domestic violence takes place in families from all backgrounds and communities and while we often discuss domestic violence among married or dating couples, the reality is that violence and abuse occurs in all different types of family and co-habiting relationships.

We have come far in our response to domestic violence in New Jersey. Over the last 40 years, we have witnessed the development of laws, a strong network of providers, and increased awareness and education around the issues of domestic violence. But we must go further; this is simply not enough.

Earlier this week, Acting Administrative Director of the Courts Glenn A. Grant, J.A.D, released the Report of the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence. The committee, formed by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner in February 2015, provided 30 recommendations in the document after an examination of current domestic violence laws, the interaction between municipal and Superior Courts in domestic violence matters, resources available to victims of domestic violence, treatment options for adjudicated offenders, and methods of risk assessment and requirements for education and training. Committee members included representatives from all three branches of government, the private sector, academia, advocacy groups and attorneys representing the interests of both domestic violence victims and offenders. The report is available on the Judiciary’s website and available for public comment until July 29, 2016 (njcourts.gov).

NJCEDV, represented on the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee, looks forward to seeing how and which recommendations the Judiciary prioritizes. It is clear there is a commitment from all involved to improve our responses to victims and their families, as well a recognition that more must be done to reduce the number of lives lost to domestic violence in New Jersey every year. Individuals, families, communities and providers must have the tools, information and resources available in order to identify and effectively respond to high risk domestic violence cases before they turn fatal.

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About the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV):

Known as the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women (NJCBW) for nearly 40 years, NJCEDV provides leadership, support and resources on the prevention of domestic violence for all victims in New Jersey through advocacy, education and training, technical assistance and community awareness.

Help is Available:

To learn if a relationship is abusive or if abuse is suspected, it is important to take it seriously, get information and share resources. Help is available in every county and for every victim through a network of programs dedicated to serving domestic violence victims and their families. The State Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-572-SAFE (7233). A list of programs and services is available at NJCEDV.org.

4/11/16 - Six Domestic Violence Deaths in March: Four Homicides and Two Suicides

Throughout the state of New Jersey, domestic violence abusers continue to claim lives each month, leaving communities and their loved ones to suffer in the wake of horrific murders. In March alone, there were six homicides – a troubling number that should serve as a stark reminder that domestic violence affects everyone and is an urgent societal issue that needs to be addressed

 

We must name the crime and recognize the victims:

  • March 14 – Amelia Holmes, 29, was shot and killed on a Jersey City street by her boyfriend, Terrence Jackson, 29, who later shot and killed himself.
  • March 20 – Annette Torres, 37, was shot and killed in her Bergenfield home by her live-in partner, Mark Morris, 44, who also shot and killed himself.
  • March 24 – Trenice Johnson, 26, was found in her apartment fatally injured by strangulation, her body bound with duct tape. The Union County Prosecutor’s Office charged her boyfriend, Arturo Alomas, with her death. He was later arrested in North Carolina while recklessly driving Trenice’s vehicle, with the couple’s two-month-old child in the car.
  • March 31 – Cynthia Fortune, 54, was killed by her husband, Quentin Fortune, 37, when he slit her throat as she attempted to drive away in Delran.

Action is needed

These tragedies are not unique and have left many domestic violence advocates and leaders calling for more action and attention to domestic violence in our communities. We send our condolences, along with leaders of county domestic violence organizations to the family and friends of the homicide victims. Mary Pettrow, Associate Director of Providence House Domestic Violence Services in Burlington County: “Together we stand as a community, mourning the loss of Cynthia Fortune. Our hearts go out to the many friends and family members. Please know that we at Providence House Domestic Violence Services are holding you in our hearts.”

“The startling increase in domestic violence-related fatalities over the past several years sadly confirms how critically important the services Alternatives to Domestic Violence and our partner agencies provide to the community are,” stated David Cohen, Director of Alternatives to Domestic Violence (ADV) in Bergen County in response to the Bergenfield case. “The only solace is the knowledge that these catastrophes would likely be even more commonplace were we not engaged in our mission to decrease and hopefully one day, end domestic violence.”

What we know and do not know.

While we may never know the specific events that led to these six deaths, we do know that domestic violence thrives on privacy and secrecy. What are often publicly reported as “domestic disputes” or “domestic altercations” are a small percentage of incidents in an escalating pattern of power and control by the abusive partner.  These tactics of coercion are used to not only establish, but maintain control over the victim, and they dramatically increase when the victim attempts to end the relationship.

The person we see in the community usually exhibits abusive behaviors behind closed doors, and usually does not publicly demonstrate the controlling behaviors that become all too familiar to their partners.  Whether or not physical violence exists, victims often experience other forms of emotional, psychological and financial control that prevents them from being able to freely navigate their community, seek out resources, or leave the abusive relationship. Approximately one in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.  “We as a society have to do more to protect victims of domestic violence. We need to stop blaming the victim and hold batters accountable,” implores Joaneileen Coughlan, Executive Director of WomenRising in Hudson County.

What can communities do?

One way the community can work together to combat domestic violence is to increase the ways that victims, perpetrators, and anyone needing assistance can get information and support. Julye Myner, Executive Director of the Center for Hope and Safety in Bergen County shares, “If you are a friend, please listen, believe and reach out for help. Houses of worship, schools and community groups can bring in experts to provide awareness about domestic violence, intimate partner abuse and dating violence. Every store, in every town center can post a sign that includes the names of local resources that can help.”

Collectively, we can create a culture that no longer tolerates domestic abuse, a culture that supports all individuals – women, men, youth, and people of all orientations and backgrounds.  We can help to create safety plans and provide information about healthy relationships and the warning signs of abuse. As communities of concerned citizens, we have the capacity to prevent domestic abuse including its most dangerous and lethal forms.

What can individuals do?

The first step is getting information and contacting your local domestic violence program to ask how you can get involved. Domestic violence programs are available in every county in New Jersey to serve victims of domestic violence as well as the community. Do not wait until it is too late; call to find out how you can play a role in ending domestic violence in New Jersey. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.

Resources in the communities in which the victims lived.

  • In Bergen County, contact Alternatives to Domestic Violence (24-hour Hotline: 201-336-7575/ co.bergen.nj.us/adv), or the Center For Hope And Safety (24-hour Hotline: 201-944-9600/ www.hopeandsafetynj.org).
  • WomenRising is available for individuals needing information and support in Hudson County (24-hour Hotline: 201-333-5700/ womenrising.org).
  • The YWCA of Union County is available to assist individuals needing support in Union County (24-hour Hotline: 908-355-HELP/ywcaunioncounty.org),
  • Individuals in Burlington County can contact Providence House Domestic Violence Services of Catholic Charities (24-hour Hotline: 877-871-7551/ catholiccharitiestrenton.org/locations/providence-house).

 

To find resources in other counties visit www.NJCEDV.org, or call the statewide 24-hour Hotline at 1-800-572-SAFE (7233). Together we can #endDVinNJ.

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2/4/16 - Regarding the Domestic Violence Murders of Tiniquah Rouse, Ashley Jones and Jarrell Marshall

Our hearts go out to the friends, family and Newark community of Tiniquah Rouse, 21, Ashley Jones, 23, and Jarrell Marshall, 28, who were allegedly killed by Jeffrey Holland, a former intimate partner of Rouse and Jones. Jarrell was Jones’ current boyfriend. Domestic violence was at the heart of the tragic murders, according to NJ.com reporter Vernal Coleman. Coleman reported Essex County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Katherine Carter’s statement that Holland had prior romantic relationships with both Jones and Rouse.

 

Sadly, three children, all under the age of five, were home during the murders in Jones’ home. Rouses’ five-month-old son was found in her closet. All children were physically unharmed. “It’s hard to grasp the enormity of the loss. Four innocent children are left behind and that their lives are forever changed, as are the lives of so many others, too – the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends of Ashley Jones, Tiniquah Rouse and Jarrell Marshall,” said Jane Hanson, Executive Director of Partners for Women and Justice, a non-profit located in Montclair that provides free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence seeking restraining orders in order to escape abuse.

This news comes on the first day of a month dedicated to preventing dating violence. Perpetrators of domestic violence are claiming too many lives for state leaders to take small measures in addressing this public health crisis. We need more than a month. We need our state to stand up together in saying that we will not tolerate dating or domestic violence in any of our communities. We need to do it now.

We commend Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray and the investigators of the homicide task force who identified and charged Holland with the crimes. We commend Murray and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Spokeswoman Katherine Carter for naming domestic violence in their press statement. Finally, we commend NJ.com and Coleman for reporting domestic violence in the headline and in the coverage of this case. To help other victims in abusive relationships, we must accurately convey the nature of domestic violence crimes and widely share resources. We can and must prevent future tragedies.

What this case shows is how domestic violence is never about anything a victim has or hasn’t done; domestic violence is centered on abusers’ power and control over their victims. It is a pattern of behaviors that often escalate over time and involve multiple victims. Murder is the ultimate form. We need to look no further for a motive – domestic violence and the associated power and control are the motives. The sooner we accept this fact and the alarming number of domestic violence incidents occurring each and every day, the closer we will be to ending it. According to the 2013 NJ Uniform Crime Report, an act of domestic violence occurs every 8 minutes in NJ. The New Jersey State Police reported 64,556 domestic violence offenses in 2013 alone. [1] What’s more, research shows that we are all affected – bystanders and children are often hurt or killed, suffering adverse long-term effects when they witness domestic violence. [2] (see www.njcedv.org/project/mediaguide and www.njcedv.org/help/childrens-services for more details and to get help.)

What it also shows is that restraining orders – while an important step in documenting the abuse and getting help – are only one part of the solution. Jones had a restraining order. Restraining orders can be misused. Holland had a restraining order. Abusers often use restraining orders as a further tactic of control.

Mary Houtsma, Executive Director of the Essex County Family Justice Center, points out that “increased coordination and collaboration from all government agencies, community-based services, and elected officials are essential to better protect victims of domestic violence and their families. Containment strategies, including preventative detention as a condition of bail for high risk offenders, intensive probation supervision and electronic GPS monitoring have been shown to reduce the incidence of domestic violence homicides in several jurisdictions across the country and should be implemented in New Jersey.” The Essex County Family Justice Center is designed to reduce the barriers and fragmentation of existing services for domestic violence victims by co-locating multidisciplinary professionals in one facility.

We must do more to strengthen our systems that could protect victims like Rouse, Jones and Marshall. “It is a call to action for all of us to do more as a community to prevent domestic violence and to hold abusers accountable before they cause so much harm, pain and suffering,” Hanson stated.

Governor Christie vetoed two critical pieces of legislation during the last session. Bill A4218 would better protect victims of domestic violence by strengthening laws intended to keep guns away from abusers. Lisa’s Law (A3806) would have established a pilot program in Ocean County to electronically monitor domestic violence offenders for the protection of their victims. Both bills have been re-introduced into the current legislative session by their sponsors. These laws must be signed into law. Too many lives are clearly at risk.

  1. Legislation: Governor Christie vetoed two critical pieces of legislation during the last session. Bill A4218 would better protect victims of domestic violence by strengthening laws intended to keep guns away from abusers. Lisa’s Law (A3806) would have established a pilot program in Ocean County to electronically monitor domestic violence offenders for the protection of their victims. Both bills have been re-introduced into the current legislative session by their sponsors. These laws must be signed into law. Too many lives are clearly at risk.
  2. Coordinated Community Response: We must adopt homicide prevention programs, policies and practices, which require partnerships among those who serve and protect victims (law enforcement, state agencies, and community based agencies). All of the partners must adopt the utilization of proven risk assessment instruments designed to identify factors associated with intimate partner homicide.
  3. Media: The media, as in this case, must accurately convey the nature of domestic violence crimes.
  4. Community members: We must all unite to help our family members, friends, colleagues and neighbors to end domestic violence. Our children’s futures depend on it. Together we can.
[1] New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Reporting Unit (2013) Domestic Violence in New Jersey for the Year Ending December 31, 2013

 

http://www.njsp.org/ucr/pdf/domesticviolence/2013_domestic_violence.pdf

[2] Edleson, J.L. – University of Minnesota – Journal of Interpersonal Violence (1999) Children’s Witnessing of Adult Domestic Violence

 

 

http://markwynn.com/children/children-witnessing-of-adult-domestic-violence.pdf

2/2/16 - Regarding the Domestic Violence Murder of Luisa Pleger

We extend our deepest sympathies to the friends, family and community of Luisa Pleger who was allegedly killed by her husband, Eric Pleger.

We commend Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal for naming domestic violence so clearly. It is an important reminder that, whatever the triggering situation for a domestic violence homicide, the motive is always the perpetrator’s fear of losing their coercive control over their partner. Domestic violence is a public health crisis in NJ. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we will be able to prevent the further tragic loss of lives. Domestic violence is insidious and easily hidden in our communities. No person or community is immune. Murder is the ultimate form, but there are also 17,000 victims each year who receive services from domestic violence programs throughout the state. Nationally, the statistics show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. It is time to get serious about addressing domestic abuse.

A critical misunderstanding is that if it isn’t obvious (bruises, screaming, past observances or police reports, etc.), then there is no domestic violence. Isolation is one of the first warning signs of domestic violence as abusers increasingly use this control tactic. It was reported that neighbors did not know the couple in their quiet neighborhood. In fact, domestic violence thrives on privacy. Often times, abuse has been going on for years without anyone ever really knowing. When Luisa was found, she had been dead for at least a day, police said.

As with this case, people are shocked that something so terrible could happen where they live. Victims of abuse are people who live only a few houses down from us, work a few desks over, or whose children go to school with ours. It is that pervasive. They are our neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers, and they deserve to be acknowledged, supported, and given options to increase their safety. Each of us can do our part to create a world in which our neighbors and loved ones are safe. Even the most basic steps can help.

That’s why it is important as concerned citizens that we learn about domestic and dating violence and get involved. This can be as simple as getting to know neighbors, calling the police for a well check, and sharing resources to the domestic violence programs available in every county. Research shows that connected communities experience less violence. [1]As steps towards domestic violence homicide reduction, we encourage the following: 1. That law enforcement and the media follow the lead of Prosecutor Grewal in naming domestic violence in statements each and every time it occurs. 2. That media accurately convey the nature of the domestic violence crime to better serve victims, and 3. That community members unite to help our neighbors and end domestic violence. Together we can.

[1] Massetti, G.M. and Vivolo, A.M. – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) – Achieving Public Health Impact in Youth Violence Prevention Through Community–Research Partnerships http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/progress_in_community_health_partnerships_research_education_and_action/v004/4.3.massetti.html#b10-text 

12/18/15 - Regarding the Failed Attempt to Override Governor Christie’s Veto to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence

Today the New Jersey General Assembly had an opportunity to stand up for victims of domestic violence and provide the leadership needed to help protect victims in New Jersey. The failed attempt to override Governor Chris Christie’s conditional veto of Assembly bill 4218 is dangerous and leaves victims, their families, and the community vulnerable to domestic violence offenders who seek to gain or maintain access to firearms.

 

NJCEDV applauds the leadership of Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera and the other members of the Assembly who voted in support of this bill. NJCEDV also acknowledges the many other community leaders, advocates, and survivors who contacted members of the Assembly to encourage their vote and support of victims of domestic violence.

An average of three women every day are killed by a current or former intimate partner in the United States. Victims whose abusers have access to firearms — no matter who they are registered to — are five times more likely to be murdered by them. Of the reported 50 domestic violence related deaths in New Jersey since October 2014, approximately 50% involved firearms, a number that includes murder-suicides where there were multiple victims. It is troubling that our state leaders were unable to pass this legislation despite knowing these numbers and the grave risk victims of domestic violence face.

Clearly, the time is now to address this critical issue – we simply cannot afford to wait when we know so many victims are at increased risk of firearm fatalities. NJCEDV urges our community to continue to identify meaningful solutions for protecting victims and their families, and we implore our leaders to thoroughly reexamine the enhancement of life-saving protection within our legal system. It is everyone’s responsibility to stand up for victims of domestic violence regardless of politics or any other concern. There are too many lives at stake.

12/8/15 - Statement Regarding Recent Domestic Violence Homicides in the Latina Community

We are deeply saddened to know that five domestic violence related murders in the Latina community were reported over the last three weeks. Our thoughts are with the families of Neidy Ramirez, 34, and her daughter Genesis, 3 months old; Consolacion Escolana, 82, mother of the victim who was also critically injured; and Rosa Cancela, 48, who was killed in an apparent murder-suicide.

While we cannot speak to the details of these cases as investigations are still underway, it is important that we use this opportunity to discuss some of the risk factors and dynamics that often precede such tragic incidents. While analysis can be painful, it allows us to increase our understanding of domestic violence and to identify opportunities to support victims in their journey toward safety. It is also important to note that no one is immune – bystanders, including children and other family members and friends, can be hurt or killed.

Multiple domestic violence murders are committed in New Jersey nearly every month. Despite our knowledge that domestic violence is a leading cause of homicides of women, we continue searching for motives. What’s more, these cases appear in the media for a brief period of time without much discussion or clarity about the “motive.”

Control is the Motive – Domestic Violence is the Tool to Gain and Maintain Control

In a vast majority of homicides where there is a history of an intimate relationship, control is the motive. Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behaviors that an individual will use to establish and maintain that control over an intimate partner or family member. By its definition, when we identify domestic violence we are naming the motive — the perpetrator’s intent to ensure ultimate control over their partner.

Assessing Domestic Violence Risk

Domestic violence will often include tactics like name calling and constantly ridiculing the victim, isolating the victim from their community, and threatening behavior seeking to prevent the victim from leaving or ending the relationship. Identifying a pattern of behavior can be challenging when we are privy to only isolated incidents or behaviors, that when considered alone, don’t appear to be dangerous. However, it is important that we acknowledge that non-physical forms of abuse may be signs of more dangerous behavior later on.

11/10/15 - NJ Governor Chris Christie’s Conditional Veto of Bipartisan Bill (A4218/S2786) Puts Domestic Violence Victims at Increased Risk

We are greatly concerned about Governor Christie’s conditional veto of bipartisan bill A4218 and urge the legislature to consider the following statement by Jane Shivas, Executive Director of the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

Governor Christie has not only missed an opportunity to strengthen our current laws which seek to prevent domestic violence offenders from gaining or maintaining access to firearms, but instead has proposed new measures recommending that firearms applications be expedited for victims of domestic violence, potentially putting victims at increased risk for harm.

An average of three women every day are killed by a current or former intimate partner in the United States. Of the reported 40 domestic violence related deaths in New Jersey since October 2014, 20 or 50% involved firearms, a number that includes murder-suicides where there were multiple victims.

Without proposed enhancements that provide specific measures and guidance to law enforcement officials, current laws contain loopholes that lead to inconsistent implementation endangering victims’ lives. Governor Christie stated that one of the reasons for not signing A4218 into law was because the law “substantially restates New Jersey’s existing laws that govern firearms and domestic violence and does not offer new and sensible improvements to those current laws.” It is true that New Jersey does have strong firearms laws as they relate to domestic violence, at least as those laws are written. The challenge is that the laws are not implemented and applied consistently county to county resulting in gaps in the law enforcement and court response to domestic violence offenders. The significance of A4218 is that it sought to close those loopholes to offer law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and the courts more guidance in order to make sure that laws are implemented with more consistency county to county, regardless of where a victim lives or seeks help. Bills would better protect victims of domestic violence by strengthening laws intended to keep guns away from abusers.

While Governor Christie failed to sign legislation that would help prevent domestic violence offenders from gaining access to firearms, he instead recommended a state law that would expedite firearms permits for victims of domestic violence as a sensible measure that would “empower victims.”

The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence does not believe that there is one single intervention or strategy in response to domestic violence that will protect all victims. We understand that safety planning is a very personal process for each victim, and may include different tactics and tools to enhance their personal safety. However, it sends a dangerous message to the community and to victims of domestic violence to claim that access to firearms will increase victim safety when the evidence paints a different picture. The reality is that victims whose abusers have access to firearms — no matter who they are registered to — are five times more likely to be murdered by them. It is unacceptable to leave victims vulnerable and instead, ask that they defend themselves and their children from extremely violent perpetrators. It is the state’s responsibility to provide the utmost protection to victims and families. Why take that chance and risk their lives?

As we continue to advocate for policies that protect victims of domestic violence, we must be willing to see where there are opportunities to do better, to strengthen the laws that already exist, and implement policies that show evidence for improving victim safety. Empowering victims shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of victims alone. To truly empower victims we must 1) work together to create access points where all victims can get information; 2) create systems where all victims are safe to seek out available services; and 3) implement strategies across these systems that identify escalating, dangerous behavior before victims are in life-threatening situations.

When we collectively take these actions, the result is vastly improved interventions that protect victims and hold offenders accountable. And while the latter is important in sending the message that domestic violence is inexcusable and that NJ will not tolerate abuse of any kind, it is even more critical that we prevent domestic violence fatalities in the first place.

We thank Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, and the other sponsors, for their leadership on this bill and for putting the lives of victims ahead of any other concern in this critical matter. Everyone deserves the full protection of our legal system and lives free of abuse. Together we can end domestic violence.

10/25/15 - Statement Regarding the Apparent Domestic Violence Murder (Abuse in Later Life) of Andree Buller

We are grieved at the alarming murder-suicide that occurred Sunday at an assisted-living facility in Voorhees, News Jersey. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family, friends and community of Andree Buller, 85, who was fatally shot by her son, George Buller III, 62.

While details are still unfolding around this tragedy, we cannot confirm or comment on this particular crime that appears to be a case of domestic abuse in later life. We do; however, want to share the message that domestic violence includes elder abuse; an intersection between the two exists. Though we often think of domestic violence as acts that occur between dating or married partners, this tragedy calls to attention that family violence is also domestic violence, and that too often our elders are the victims of abuse.

Current research from the US Department of Justice shows that one out of ten elders is victimized — in most cases, by a relative or personal acquaintance in a private residence (96% of elder abuse cases). And, that relative is often an adult child, grandchild or other family member of the victim. Family members who abuse drugs or alcohol, who have mental/emotional illness, or feel burdened by their caregiving responsibilities abuse at higher rates than those who do not.1 Even without a recorded history of domestic violence, we know that it can still exist, especially because elders are not often in situations to report abuse. This abuse is rising in the US.

Family violence is much too common in our society, and no victim should suffer in silence. We must reach out to anyone who we suspect is in an abusive situation. (Elder abuse is any mistreatment or lack of appropriate action that results in harm to an elderly person, or puts him/her at risk of being harmed. As it pertains to domestic violence, this can include: physical abuse, neglect, abandonment/isolation, obstruction of services, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, emotional/verbal abuse and stalking.) To report suspected elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, please visit the State Department of Human Services website to find the number for their local Adult Protective Services.

Caregiving can be an extremely stressful experience, but most caregivers are not violent or abusive. In fact, caregiver violence will often mimic a pattern of escalating power and control experienced in domestic violence among younger intimate partners, as opposed to isolated incidents of violence or abuse. Again, in most cases, the perpetrator is a partner, family member, caregiver or another person in a trusting relationship to the victim. For more details about the intersection of domestic violence and elder abuse, please visit http://www.njcedv.org/project/mediaguide#laterlifeabuse. (This is part of a new section on our website that will include the various types of domestic violence and ways to address/report on them. It will also include facts and statistics around its prevalence and victim services.) More information can be found at: http://www.vawnet.org/applied-research-papers/print-document.php?doc_id=376.

Andree’s death further reminds us that domestic violence is a community health issue, one that is not going away. People are often shocked and outraged that something so awful could happen where they live or to people they know. But we must recognize that domestic violence is pervasive and that no one is immune, including our elders. In addition to endangering those directly involved, domestic violence can rattle our neighborhoods, jeopardize our safety and take away our sense of security. Domestic violence unravels the fabric of our communities, and we must act now to prevent such violence from occurring in the future. Together, let’s end domestic violence in New Jersey for everyone.

1 Schiamberg, L. & Gans, D. (1999). An ecological framework for contextual risk factors in elder abuse by adult children. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 11(1), 79-103.

10/23/15 - Statement Regarding the Domestic Violence Murder of Suzanne Bardzell

We are deeply saddened and troubled by the reported domestic violence murder of Suzanne Bardzell, 48. Our thoughts are with her two teenage sons, her family, friends and Midland Park community.

Arthur Lomando, 44, allegedly fatally stabbed Suzanne in her driveway and later tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of a subway train in New York City. Lomando is a former NYPD police officer who was dismissed of his duties over 10 years ago due to misconduct and mental health concerns. Another tragedy reported this morning involved a former New Jersey police officer who murdered his wife, Patricia Nigro, in an apparent domestic violence murder-suicide in their NY home.

While we cannot comment on the specifics of these cases, they do call to attention the extreme dangers victims face when leaving an abusive relationship or seeking to maintain safety from abusive partners — it is an especially dangerous time for them. Victims whose abusers hold positions of legal authority often face unique barriers. A victim in this situation is particularly vulnerable because their abuser is well connected, knows the legal system well, and likely knows about the resources available to victims. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors intended to exert power and control over victims. Abusers who are police officers can exert this control in increased ways.

Failure to protect

It has been reported that police had responded to Suzanne’s home in the previous months and that monitoring may have been involved. We know that even when there is no documented history of abuse, that it does exist because domestic violence thrives on privacy and most often happens behind closed doors, even in safe, “quiet” communities such as Midland Park.

In NJ, we have strong systems in place – that include police response – to protect victims of domestic violence and their families; however, the prevalence of this public health crisis demands we do more to prevent additional tragedies. Since October of 2014, there have been approximately 38 reported domestic violence related deaths throughout our state. This is a sad statistic and unacceptable when we know that domestic violence is preventable.

So what can be done?

First and foremost, we must believe victims when they disclose domestic violence and we must take threats of harm seriously. As advocates, law enforcement officials and policymakers, we must research and implement Domestic Violence Homicide Reduction Strategies such as High Risk Domestic Violence Response Teams.

Member programs throughout the state already provide critical, life-changing services to nearly 17,000 victims of domestic violence each year. We must recognize that domestic violence is one of the most serious public health issues plaguing our state and act in kind to support the work of these programs and pass vital legislation to further protect victims.

Pending legislation such as Assembly bill 3806, “Lisa’s Law”, which establishes a four-year pilot program in Ocean County for the electronic monitoring of high-risk domestic violence offenders can offer the opportunity to alert victims, like Suzanne, when their perpetrator is within a certain proximity so they may implement an emergency safety plan. This is just one example, and would require implementation within a strong coordinated community response whose goal is a reduction to domestic violence homicides, and utilizes evidence-based models like High Risk Domestic Violence Response Teams.

And as community members, we must understand that domestic violence is our business and that it is not a private, personal, or family matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), domestic violence is a serious public health crisis that 1 in 4 women will experience in their lifetimes.

As stated by Elaine Meyerson of the Center for Hope and Safety, a domestic violence program in Bergen County, “Suzanne’s murder in Midland Park is a reminder that domestic violence can happen in any community. Suzanne made an effort to keep herself safe by seeking an order of protection last week. We all need to be educated about available services in our local community. In Bergen county there are two programs with hotlines: Center For Hope And Safety (201-944-9600) and Bergen County Alternatives to Domestic Violence (201-336-7575).”

NJ, it is time to seriously address domestic violence and we can begin naming it in our conversations and in our reporting of it. Let’s not use headlines such as “Machete Murder” but instead as supported by the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, a “Domestic Violence Murder.” We must educate ourselves about the dynamics of abuse so we can finally have answers to these “senseless” crimes that create shock and grief in our communities because the reality is that no one person or community is immune.

How to help

When tragedies occur there may be fear around the reported public threat of an abuser, but we must also understand that domestic violence itself is the threat because everyone is affected. These murders will not cease until every one of us does something to help.

And while domestic violence is a large, complex problem, there are simple steps everyone can take. Listening to a victim and not placing judgment, offering support, sharing the name of a local agency, or simply calling for help when a domestic violence incident is observed, are some of these ways.

We learned that Suzanne was a teacher. It is important that we create access points throughout the community where individuals impacted by domestic violence may obtain information and help from places like their workplace. In 2011, the New Jersey Legislature passed a bill mandating schools provide dating violence prevention education, and in 2013 federal law passed that now requires college campuses be more proactive in their approach to dating and domestic violence on campuses. It is important that such education and resources acknowledge that domestic and dating violence occurs among everyone, not just students and their families, and that it affects our teachers and school staff as well.

To learn if a relationship is abusive or if abuse is suspected, it is important to take it seriously, get information and share resources. Help is available in every county and for every victim through a network of programs dedicated to serving domestic violence victims and their families. The State Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-572-SAFE (7233). A list of programs and services is available at www.NJCEDV.org.

We must all shine light on the dangers victims face in their own homes and behind closed doors as we simultaneously facilitate conversations about healthy relationships. Domestic violence is a serious, widespread public health issue, but with a coordinated community response it doesn’t have to be. We can stop the devastating loss children like Suzanne’s sons will have to endure for a lifetime. We can prevent tragedies such as Suzanne’s murder from ever happening. Let’s end domestic violence in New Jersey.

10/16/15 - Statement Regarding the Domestic Violence Murders of Victoria Knight and Ronald Victor Knight

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Victoria Knight, 84, and her son Ronald Victor Knight, 52, of Teaneck who were fatally stabbed Wednesday by Keith Knight, Victoria’s son and Ronald’s brother. While we do not know the details of this case, it does bring to light the reality that domestic violence can occur in all types of family relationships, and calls us to identify some of the barriers and challenges that exist for older adults who are victims of this violence.

In New Jersey, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act recognizes a victim of domestic violence as someone who is subjected to domestic violence by a current or former spouse, current or former dating partner, and any other person who is a current or former household member. Therefore, cases of domestic violence may be perpetrated by an adult sibling against another sibling, by an adult child against their parent or grandparent, or other individuals with whom the perpetrator may have resided. Victims of this type of violence should be afforded the same rights and protections under our law as victims of intimate partner domestic violence. However, accessing services and support can be challenging at times.

Dynamics and Barriers in Cases of Non-Intimate Partner Domestic Violence

It is difficult for any victim to identify the abuse in their relationship and to secure the services they may need to stay safe. Such challenges may be magnified for parents who find themselves victim to their child’s abuse. Parents often view their children, regardless of age, as just that, their children – children they are responsible for protecting, children they are responsible for raising, and in some cases responsible for the choices their children make – even as adults. This in no way claims that parents, like Victoria Knight, are responsible for the abuse they experience at the hands of their child, but instead to acknowledge the great lengths parents will go to protect their children even when it may mean sacrificing their own safety or access to supportive services.

One significant barrier is that when we do talk about domestic violence, we rarely hear it discussed in relation to cases of non-intimate partner domestic violence. As a result, victims of non-intimate partner domestic violence may be less educated about their rights, options, and available resources. Individuals in the community may be reluctant to intervene, or unable to recognize signs of escalating danger if they are not looking at such incidents through the lens of domestic violence.

Abuse in Later Life

Adults are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect as they get older. Yet, according to one study, only approximately 1 out of 14 cases of abuse in later life are reported. As discussed above, family dynamics may make identifying and addressing the abuse difficult. For older adults, additional factors may contribute to their vulnerability.

Isolation: Most victims of domestic violence are isolated in various ways. For older victims, many of the friends and family within their support network may have moved away or passed on. It may also become more difficult to navigate their community independently which limits their access to safe and supportive resources. Cultural Values: Older adults grew up within a generation when domestic and family violence was not talked about, there were few if any laws in response to such violence, and there were no resources to address such family issues. In addition, loyalty to the family, and honoring the privacy within the family may take precedence over reporting violence or seeking the support of an outside person. Dependence on Caregivers: As adults get older, they may be reliant on the ongoing assistance and care of other individuals, who in many cases are their own family members. Such dependence can make the victim more vulnerable to abuse and neglect by a caregiver. The caregiver may also have control over who the victim has contact with, and how they navigate within their community and with available services. Mental Illness

Recent news reports of the Knight case allude to potential mental illness or disability that Keith Knight may suffer from as a result of an accident. Mental illness and disability do not cause someone to be violent; however, they are a risk factor. Persons with mental illness are also at greater risk of domestic violence victimization. It is important that mental health service providers work with domestic violence advocates to implement screening persons with mental health concerns for abuse. We must increase the capacity of both disciplines to address the co-occurrence of mental illness and domestic violence.

The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence is committed to ending domestic violence for all victims.

10/13/15 - Statement Regarding the Alleged Domestic Violence Strangulations of David Hurley and Monika Potoczniak

Our hearts are heavy today as we learned about two alleged domestic violence strangulations that resulted in the unrelated deaths of David Hurley, 50, of Bayonne, and Monika Potoczniak, 27, and her son Christopher, 4, of Jersey City. Our thoughts are with their friends, neighbors, and family. As we strive to raise critical awareness, these tragedies serve as stark reminders that domestic violence is one of the most serious public health crises plaguing our state and that we can and must do more to educate our communities in the hopes of preventing these murders. Domestic violence affects us all and every one of us can do something. It has been reported that both David and Monika were strangled by their intimate partners. David’s wife Michelle Hurley allegedly strangled him in response to ongoing divorce issues. He died more than a week after the initial assault. And just the day before, Monika and Christopher were taken to the hospital where they would later die from their injuries. Police have issued an arrest warrant for Monika’s estranged boyfriend José Santos-Alvarez for their murders. While the details of these cases are still unfolding and we cannot comment on the specifics, we need to acknowledge and send the message that:

LEAVING IS THE MOST DANGEROUS TIME When victims are attempting to leave a relationship by divorce or in any other way, it is the most dangerous time for them and their children. We must disengage from victim blaming and seek to understand the immense fear of further harm to themselves and their loved ones that victims face. People leave relationships all the time and while it can be stressful, most are not threatened with violence. We must hold batterers accountable in every case of domestic violence – there simply is no excuse.

STRANGULATION IS LETHAL Strangulation is the most lethal of abuse tactics and – as occurred in these cases – can result in death days, weeks or even months after the initial assault. It is also the greatest predictor of homicide for victims of domestic violence. We are alarmed that there have been 3 domestic violence strangulation murders in the last month. New Jersey must take notice and be consistently diligent in the reporting and charging of these crimes. We implore the media and law enforcement to use the correct terminology in these cases. This is a domestic violence strangulation, not choking, which was the term used in the reporting of Mr. Hurley’s death. When law enforcement communities and the media use the term strangulation in their reports documenting incidents of domestic violence, they tend to be more successful in conveying the seriousness of the incident and crime.1 When we use the term domestic violence, we help others understand that these are not random acts of violence, but instead part of a pattern of controlling behaviors where there is often a history of physical and/or non-physical forms of abuse. We have the knowledge and ability to prevent domestic violence murders and we must all do our part. What’s more, at the center of domestic violence is abusers’ need to control their partners. Strangulation is often a tactic that they use to exert this control – it is a highly intimate and personal type of violence with serious health impacts that can lead to death. The motive here is usually not to kill their victim, but to demonstrate their power and control over their victim, to silence them and illustrate that their lives are in their hands.

CHILDREN ARE AFFECTED Domestic violence gravely affects children and we must not forget about them as we look for solutions to prevent domestic violence. Most people believe that domestic violence only affects adults; however, this couldn’t be farther from reality. Children are often present during domestic violence assaults. Children can be injured in domestic violence incidents, especially those too young to protect themselves or get help. What’s more, we know that children exposed to domestic violence are at an increased risk for poor long-term health outcomes including chronic diseases, substance abuse, dropping out of school, employment challenges, and even early death.2 Sadly, children were involved or present during 30 percent of all domestic violence offenses occurring in New Jersey in 2013. Specifically, 5 percent (2,916) were involved and 25 percent (16,149) were present3. A review of Child Protective Services cases in two states identified domestic violence in up to 43 percent of cases resulting in the critical injury or death of a child4.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AFFECTS EVERYONE Domestic violence can happen to anyone and everyone is affected by this preventable crime. While domestic violence remains largely gender-based violence against women, it is important to note that 1 out of every 7 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime5. This public health epidemic is also about family violence, and as a statewide network we have programs dedicated to serving all victims and their children. Help is available for anyone who experiences intimate partner violence in every county in New Jersey. It is even more important that we share this information with friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors because men do not often view themselves as victims of abuse and when they do, they often do not report it. Finally, we feel it’s important to note that domestic violence knows no boundaries regardless of race, class, education level, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, age, nation of origin, or ability – anyone can be a victim. Through its Inclusion and Access Initiative, NJCEDV strives to work with member organizations and community partners to ensure that programs and services are inclusive and accessible to individuals from all backgrounds and communities, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. We must remember that every New Jersey citizen has a right to be safe where they live, work and play, and every victim and child who witnesses domestic violence deserves a life free from domestic violence. As caring community members, domestic violence is our business. It is our responsibility to learn more so we can do more to help. When we help in even the smallest way, collectively, we can prevent domestic violence from claiming the lives of untold victims and the futures of their children. Let’s end domestic violence in New Jersey for everyone.

09/14/15 - Statement Regarding the Domestic Violence Strangulation of Yuri Cruz

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Yury Cruz and especially her young son, Kevin, who reportedly was present and crying out for his mother when police arrived. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and want to call attention to the dangers of strangulation so that we can help to inform community members who may be in a position to help prevent other victims from being murdered at the hands of their abusers. When Yury’s reported longtime boyfriend Ignacio Ortiz took her life in a quiet Rahway neighborhood this past weekend, he also took her away from her beloved son who now must grow up without either parent.

We commend the media and law enforcement for identifying and naming strangulation in this case. We also urge both groups to name these cases as domestic violence as they clearly fall under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. When we do this, we help others understand that these are not random acts of violence, but instead part of a pattern of controlling behaviors where there is often a history of physical and/or non-physical forms of abuse. We have the knowledge and ability to prevent domestic violence murders and we must all do our part. When law enforcement communities use the term strangulation in their reports documenting incidents of domestic violence, they tend to be more successful in conveying the seriousness of the incident and crime, as well leading to more serious consequences against the offender.(1)

At the center of domestic violence is abusers’ need to control their partners. Strangulation is often a tactic that they use to exert this control — it is a highly intimate and personal type of violence with serious health impacts that can lead to death. In this case again, there is a search for motive. And again, the response is domestic violence. Plainly stated, the motive of domestic violence is power and control over the victim. The strategies to maintain that power and control can begin with verbal and emotional abuse (which can often be more devastating than actual physical injuries), escalate to physical violence, and in its extreme form end in murder.

Strangulation, though not widely or openly discussed, is a very common tactic used by abusers and also the strongest predictor of homicide for victims of domestic violence. The motive here is usually not to kill their victim, but to demonstrate their power and control over their victim, to silence them and illustrate that their lives are in their hands.

Strangulation Statistics

43% of domestic homicide victims had been strangled by their partner within the last 12 months prior to their death.(2) Studies show 23-68% of victims of domestic violence report being strangled by their partner.(3) A victim who is strangled by their partner, is 7 times more likely to be killed by that partner later on, when compared to survivors who reported no history of strangulation.(4) For all of these reasons, it is vital for victims and those who suspect strangulation, to share information and resources (see below for warning signs and resources). Doing so could prompt victims to seek medical attention and to get help with safety planning in response to escalating violence.

The New Jersey Legislature has introduced a bill that could help victims by making batterers accountable for this lethal form of physical violence. NJ bill S3026 provides that strangulation of a victim resulting in bodily injury during the commission of an act of domestic violence constitutes aggravated assault. The New Jersey Assembly has already voted in favor of such a bill when it passed A235 this past June. Therefore, NJCBW supports and urges the Senate to do the same.

Ending domestic violence will require a coordinated community response in which we all have a part. It is understandable to be shocked when domestic violence occurs, but we must also seek to understand the root causes of domestic violence. It is tragic when murders occur, but we must also know that we can prevent domestic violence from ever taking another one of our sisters, brothers, family members, neighbors, or co-workers again. And together we can prevent another child having to experience the abuse and death of his parent.

Finally, we feel it is important to stress that domestic violence happens in every community and occurs across socio-economic, ethnic, racial, and educational backgrounds – anyone can be a victim. Domestic Violence happens in quiet, “safe” neighborhoods. In fact, abuse thrives on privacy and the idea that it is a personal or family matter. Most importantly, we must remember that every New Jersey citizen has a right to be safe where they live, work and play, and every victim and child who witnesses domestic violence deserves a life free from this abuse. This is why, as caring community members, we must do more. It is our responsibility to learn more so we can do more to help. Let’s end domestic violence in New Jersey.

09/04/15 - Statement Regarding the Domestic Violence Triple Murders of Amanda Morris and Her Young Children Lyndon and Brian Beharry

Our thoughts are with the relatives, friends and neighbors of the Morris and Beharry families. We were devastated to hear that the Prosecutor’s Office has found that the four family members appear to have died in an apparent domestic violence murder-suicide, and our hearts especially go out to the surviving members of the family. We urge victims and families who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse to seek help as soon as possible. The loss of any beloved community member is tragic, and in this case, it is also disturbing.

While details of the case are still unfolding and we cannot comment on the specifics, we must address this alleged triple murder-suicide. It has been reported that Amanda Morris and her young children Lyndon and Brian Beharry were fatally shot by her common-law husband, Lyndon “Shane” Beharry because she wanted to leave the abusive relationship and take her children. We must give context to the domestic violence that occurred in this heinous crime so that the media and others can understand this tragedy and offer resources for victims, their children and bystanders.

Murder-Suicides and Domestic Violence

In many murder-suicides, domestic violence is the precipitating factor. We have yet, however, to see one article that mentions even the possibility of domestic violence. Instead many articles focus on the positive attributes of the father and that he could never do “this.” In most of the recent murder-suicides bystanders have repeated common statements: “He couldn’t have done this. This doesn’t happen here. There was no motive.”

Motives for Domestic Homicides

Plainly stated, the motive of domestic violence is power and control over the victim. The strategies to maintain that power and control can begin with verbal and emotional abuse (which can often be more devastating than actual physical injuries), escalate to physical violence, and in its extreme form end in murder.

Perhaps there was no motive that those quoted saw or thought might be sufficient to end in homicide. While we do not know the details of what transpired in this specific home, we do know that domestic violence largely happens behind closed doors and what the public – even family members – see is not always reflective of what is happening at home. Sometimes we simply cannot or do not want to believe someone we know is capable of such a horrific act.

This case serves as a stark reminder that domestic violence knows no boundaries and affects us all, even those we love and with whom we have good relationships. When it comes to domestic violence, controlling, abusive people can be our neighbors, co-workers, or family members. This makes it difficult for victims to get help or for bystanders to identify abuse and intervene. Victims bear their pain silently because they think no one will believe them. They also remain quiet because of the extreme fear they experience from threats to harm either them, their children or other family members. Again, what the public sees is often very different than what occurs at home. Therefore, we must stop looking for other answers because we do not want to address the issue of domestic violence as being as deadly and pervasive as it is.

Warning Signs

In nearly every case of domestic homicide, there are warning signs that are clear in retrospect. That is why we, as concerned community members and caring citizens of New Jersey, must learn the signs of a potentially abusive relationship. Controlling behavior, constant put downs, extreme jealousy, and forced isolation from friends and family are a few of the signals that a relationship may be coercive and abusive. People may think this behavior is “normal” for a couple or that they are just passionate about one another. But does the victim constantly defer to her partner for decisions? Is the victim expressing fear if late arriving home or if anticipating something might upset the partner? When a victim tries to leave an abusive relationship, it is an especially dangerous time, even for the children.

What to Do if You Suspect Abuse

If you want to know if a relationship is abusive or if you suspect abuse, it is important to take it seriously, get information and share resources. Help is available in every county and for every victim through a network of programs dedicated to serving domestic violence victims and their families. The State Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-572-SAFE (7233). You can also find a list of programs and services at www.njcedv.org.

Children are Affected

Children are often present during domestic violence assaults(1). Children can be injured in domestic violence incidents, especially those too young to protect themselves or get help. What’s more, we know that children exposed to domestic violence are at an increased risk for poor long-term health outcomes including chronic diseases, substance abuse, dropping out of school, employment challenges, and even early death.(2) Sadly, children were involved or present during 29 percent of all domestic violence offenses occurring in New Jersey in 2012. Specifically, 4 percent (2,298) were involved and 25 percent (16,534) were present(3). A review of Child Protective Services cases in two states identified domestic violence in up to 43 percent of cases resulting in the critical injury or death of a child(4).

There is Help for Children

The Domestic Violence Liaison (DVL) Project is a collaboration between the Department of Children and Families, the Coalition, and the lead domestic violence agencies in the 21 counties. This program places an experienced employee of a domestic violence agency (the DVL) within the local Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) offices to provide support, safety planning and advocacy for victims. In addition, the DVL provides consultative support to the DCP&P workers as they intervene and investigate child protection cases where domestic violence exists or is suspected.

Peace a Learned Solution (PALS), is a trauma informed program for child witnesses of domestic violence that isavailable in 11 NJ counties. This treatment program model uses creative arts therapies for children (primarily aged three to twelve), who have been exposed to domestic violence.

Asking the Right Questions

As a state and as connected communities who care about one another and our children, we must change the way we report on and discuss these cases. We need to ask the questions that will identify if there are signs of domestic violence. And, rather than blaming victims by asking why they would stay, ask why abusive partners continue their behavior. When so much of the initial reporting focuses on the positive image of the alleged or suspected abuser, we are more apt to blame the victim if it becomes clear there is domestic violence. We put other victims and children at risk with misinformation. Victim blaming language creates barriers that prevent the public from seeing individuals as perpetrators of domestic violence; it allows the public to make excuses where there should be none. No one deserves abuse. We must call this domestic violence in every case where abuse in an intimate partner relationship has taken place. We must educate ourselves about the dynamic of abuse so we can finally have answers to these “senseless” crimes that create shock and grief in our communities.

When we do this, we can prevent domestic violence from claiming the lives of untold victims and the futures of their children. New Jersey communities; together we can end domestic violence.

08/26/15 - Statement Regarding the Domestic Violence Murder of Susan Haskoor

We are deeply saddened by the loss of another victim of domestic violence, Susan Haskoor, and extend our heartfelt condolences to her children, family, friends and community members in Plumsted, NJ. Today, we are again reminded of the dangerous impact that domestic violence can have for so many victims trying to free themselves from abusive partners. Susan’s reportedly estranged husband, Arthur Haskoor, killed her and later – after barricading himself and threatening police – attempted to take his own life.

This horrific tragedy and lack of knowledge about the prevalence of domestic violence, deeply concerns us. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), domestic violence is a serious public health crisis that 1 in 4 will experience in their lifetimes. This summer in NJ, there have been 4 domestic violence murders, 1 associated suicide, 1 related bystander homicide, and 2 associated suicide attempts. One incident tragically involved the public shooting of a mother (in front of her 7-year-old daughter and terrified bystanders) by the victim’s ex-husband, a police sergeant. And with the current annual high number of domestic violence homicides in NJ at 38, we can sadly expect to see an average of 3 murders each month. So, when police report that there is “no danger to the public,” it sends the message that domestic violence doesn’t happen. It does – in every community in New Jersey; no one is immune.

Coverage of this particular case included statements such as police were responding to a “domestic dispute,” “they were nice people” and “this doesn’t happen here.” Most critically, we must change the language around domestic violence and call it what it is: domestic violence. By labeling it a dispute, we make victims culpable for their own abuse, and even deaths. Domestic violence is about abusers’ power and control over their victims. It’s not about a dispute or an argument; it’s a pattern of behaviors that often escalates into physical violence, and sometimes murder.

What’s more, we know that domestic violence most often happens behind closed doors.

Communities are often in shock when a murder happens right “next door.” But domestic violence happens every day and though there are warning signs, abuse can go unnoticed, particularly in rural communities like Plumsted. Generally, domestic violence thrives on privacy and the idea that it is a family or personal matter. Without support, victims experience isolation, which can make it extremely difficult to break the cycle of abuse or get vital intervention. Leaving abusive partners is extremely dangerous and victims are at increased risk for being fatally injured during this time. That is why we must do more to help victims and disengage from victim blaming.

As concerned citizens who care about the future of our garden state, we must understand the dynamics of abuse, that it does happen every day in New Jersey and unless we stand together to end it, domestic violence perpetrators like Arthur Haskoor will continue to threaten public safety as well as the lives of our neighbors, colleagues, family members and friends.

With all the public shootings in recent history, we understand the fear felt by many and the immediate response of law enforcement to ensure public safety. These same drastic measures need to be taken to address all volatile domestic violence cases. This murder isn’t a lesser crime because we now know it involved intimate partners. A victim has been murdered and Haskoor’s note indicated he would have killed others. It’s important to understand that bystanders are often victims in domestic violence related homicides.

In this case, the police apprehended the perpetrator and the immediate danger was removed. However, there is an ongoing threat to the public. According to the United States Department of Justice, an average of 3 women every day are killed by a current or former intimate partner in the U.S. Again, saying that there is “no longer a threat” is misleading and misrepresents the nature of domestic violence.

Every one of us knows someone who is a victim or survivor of domestic violence. It is just as likely that every one of us knows someone who is a perpetrator of domestic violence. Therefore, every one of us has the potential to be an active bystander whether we are a family member or friend, a neighbor, doctor, counselor, clergy, or educator. We all can learn how to intervene safely and with appropriate tools, to position and empower ourselves to help individuals impacted by domestic violence. Together we can end domestic violence, and together we can end this public threat to a safe, healthy New Jersey for everyone. It’s time to take domestic violence seriously.

08/18/15 - Statement Regarding the Domestic Violence Murders of Heidi Errickson and Fred Errickson, Jr.

We are deeply saddened by the domestic violence murders of Heidi Errickson and her brother, Fred Errickson, Jr. and extend our sympathies to their families and everyone impacted by this horrific tragedy. When lives are taken by such heinous acts of abuse, individuals, families and entire communities are forever altered—domestic violence disrupts the futures of so many New Jerseyans.

On average, three women are killed by their intimate partners every day in the United States. Domestic Violence occurs across socio-economic, ethnic, racial, and educational backgrounds – anyone can be a victim. In fact, 1 in 3 will be in their lifetimes. For the past 10 years in New Jersey, there have been at least 38 domestic violence homicides reported in the annual New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Reports. This number is even higher when adding domestic violence murder-suicides throughout the state, which is not captured in the above report. It also doesn’t reflect the untold victims and their children who suffer silently behind closed doors. We must do more to address the serious issue of domestic violence in our state.

We can start by identifying and naming all cases that involve domestic violence clearly as domestic violence. This is a shared responsibility that includes our judicial system, the media and our communities. Domestic violence is not an isolated incident; murder is the final act of power and control over the victim. Murder-suicides, in particular, are the ultimate form of control and occur most often when a victim has decided to leave the relationship. What’s more disturbing is that the access to firearms increases the rate of domestic violence related deaths. Victims whose abusers have access to firearms are five times more likely to be murdered by them (Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Policy and Research). The presence of high-powered weapons further increases the fatality risk to bystanders – including children, other family members and responding police. In this case, the alleged perpetrator, John Reno, shot and killed his fiancé’s brother before killing her and then – after a standoff with police – turning the gun on himself.

It’s important to note that while there are many warning signs of abuse taking place in a relationship (excessive jealously, forced isolation from friends and family, and even relationships that get too serious too quickly), abusers can often hide their abuse while keeping victims in fear, which can stop them from seeking help or leaving. This is why we must take this public health issue seriously and call it what it is: domestic violence.

In light of these facts and statistics, the Coalition encourages media to name domestic violence in their coverage of these homicides. The media has a vast capacity to educate New Jerseyans on the dangers of domestic violence while accurately reporting on these crimes. In this way, the media plays a critical role in breaking the silence around social issues such as domestic violence—and that can help keep victims safe. When the coverage of homicides accurately reflects the experience of victims and the dynamics of domestic violence, the media helps people learn the steps they or someone they know can take to stop domestic violence on a personal, organizational, policy and community level.

Conversely, without understanding homicides in the context of domestic violence, media reports can perpetuate the myths about domestic violence, such as it is caused by mental illness or was the result of a “troubled relationship” or an argument. Reporting these crimes through the lens of domestic violence, rather than just reporting it as a tragedy, enables the community to understand it as a public health and public safety concern.

Murder makes for dramatic headlines, but the real story is in the seemingly minor events that occur leading up to this extreme form of domestic violence. How might they now be identified as warning signs that could lead to more dangerous, and potentially deadly, violence later on? How can we use this information and the information learned from other near-fatal domestic violence cases to prevent future homicides? We all have a stake in creating safer communities for our families and future generations.

So what can we do? How do we use this domestic violence murder-suicide to strengthen, rather than weaken everyone’s safety and our relationships with one another?

Again, the media can name it for what it is — domestic violence. In this case, we encourage the media to follow up on this tragedy and address domestic violence, which was missing from the initial coverage. Journalists can utilize guides on covering domestic violence stories, such as those by Jane Doe, Inc. in Massachusetts and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Friends, neighbors, and other bystanders can learn the warning signs of domestic violence and the resources that can help victims and their families. In NJ, we have thirty member programs dedicated to providing services for victims of domestic violence and their children. Services include 24-hour hotline support (800-572-SAFE [7233]), emergency shelter, counseling, support groups, therapy for children, legal guidance and more. Visit www.njcedv.org for more information.

In addition to the critical, life-changing services the Coalition’s member programs provide, they can, in conjunction with law enforcement and the courts, research and implement Domestic Violence Homicide Reduction strategies such as High Risk Domestic Violence Response Teams.

We must all shine light on the dangers victims face in their own homes and behind closed doors as we simultaneously facilitate conversations about healthy relationships. Domestic violence is a serious, widespread public health issue, but with a coordinated community response it doesn’t have to be. We can prevent tragedies such as Heidi’s murder from ever happening. Let’s end domestic violence in New Jersey.

Releases

6/28/16 - The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence Urges Legislature to Vote to Support and Help Protect Victims of Domestic Violence

On Monday, both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly will have the opportunity to vote on several bills that seek to enhance the services and responses available to victims of domestic violence in the Garden State. Both the Senate and Assembly will be voting on the State Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 as well as S805/A1211 in an attempt to override Governor Christie’s recent veto of this bill, which seeks to enhance current firearms laws in domestic violence cases. The Assembly will be considering A2061 to elevate the act of strangulation in domestic violence cases to aggravated assault.

Vote in Favor of the State Budget (S17/A4000) and to Support Life-Saving Domestic Violence Services Throughout NJ: 

“We are grateful that the Leadership in both the Senate and Assembly have again heard our calls and included appropriations for essential domestic violence services within the Fiscal Year 2017 State Budget scheduled for a vote on Monday,” said Nicole Morella, Director of Public Policy and Communications for the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV). The $1.84 million, which is part of a total of $2.24 million allocated for domestic violence and sexual assault programs, supports the lead domestic violence programs and is instrumental in their ability to provide emergency shelter and 24/7 crisis intervention services for victims and their families in all 21 counties.

In 2015, domestic violence programs across the state:

  • Sheltered 1,438 victims and 1,505 children
  • Answered 92,976 hotline calls
  • Provided non-residential services to 13,060 victims including legal, financial and housing advocacy, group and individual counseling
  • Provided batterers intervention services to 1,040 domestic violence offenders
  • Provided 2,893 trainings and presentations to 96,852 individuals including court personnel, police, health care providers, faith leaders, high school and middle school students, as well as the general public

“We ask all of our representatives to vote in favor of the State Budget and to ensure that funding for life-saving victim services be allocated at the same level as previous years,” added Morella.

Override Governor Chris Christie’s Veto of Bipartisan Bill S805/A1211: 

Both the Assembly and Senate will have the opportunity to override Governor Christie’s recent veto of S805. The Governor stated his reason for not signing this legislation into law was because it was redundant and restated existing laws that already prohibit domestic violence offenders from gaining or maintaining access to firearms. Yes, NJ does have strong firearms protections for domestic violence cases written in the law. However, the challenge lies in the implementation of the law where there are often inconsistencies found in its interpretation and application county to county. This results in gaps in the law enforcement and court response to domestic violence offenders — leaving victims at risk of experiencing further harm at a time when they are most vulnerable.

Victims of domestic violence are five times more likely to be killed by their abusive partner when that individual has access to a firearm.[1] From 2003 to 2012, 30.5 percent, nearly one third of victims of intimate partner homicide in New Jersey, were killed by guns.[2] The harm is further evident when an analysis is done of cases that occurred in 2015, where perpetrators of domestic violence not only used their weapons against their intimate partners, but also used their firearms against their children, bystanders, and themselves — increasing the number of lives domestic violence has claimed in New Jersey.

The significance of S805 is that it seeks to close loopholes to offer law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and the courts more guidance to make sure that laws are implemented with more consistency and immediacy county to county regardless of where a victim lives or seeks help, greatly improving safety for all victims in New Jersey.

Vote in Favor of A2061 to Hold Domestic Violence Offenders Accountable in High Risk Strangulation Cases:  Strangulation is one of the most dangerous acts that domestic violence offenders can use against their victims. Unfortunately, this experience is not uncommon. While research varies on the prevalence, a minimum of 30 percent and up to 70 percent of domestic violence victims have been strangled at least one time by a current or former intimate partner. Beyond this, strangulation is a strong indicator of escalating and potentially fatal violence. A victim that is strangled by her or his partner is seven times more likely to be killed by that partner.[3] Up to 43 percent of domestic violence homicide victims had been strangled by their abusive partner within the 12 months prior to their death, and approximately 25 percent of intimate partner homicide victims were strangled or smothered in the fatal act.[4][5] In reviewing cases reported by the media in 2015, there were at least seven women and one man strangled by a current or former intimate partner in New Jersey. In two of these cases, the victims’ children were also smothered to death by the perpetrator — a three-month-old girl and a four-year-old boy. “This bill signifies our increasing understanding of strangulation in domestic violence cases, and the need to hold offenders of this dangerous behavior accountable before their acts turn fatal,” said Morella.

The NJCEDV urges members of the legislature to support these bills and victims of domestic violence. When working together, the safety of victims and their families throughout New Jersey can be vastly improved.

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About the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV) Known as the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women (NJCBW) for nearly 40 years, NJCEDV provides leadership, support and resources on the prevention of domestic violence for all victims in New Jersey through advocacy, education and training, technical assistance and community awareness.

Help is Available:  To learn if a relationship is abusive or if abuse is suspected, it is important to take it seriously, get information and share resources. Help is available in every county and for every victim through a network of programs dedicated to serving domestic violence victims and their families. The State Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-572-SAFE (7233). A list of programs and services is available at NJCEDV.org

________________________________________[1] J. C. Campbell, D; Webster, J; Koziol-McLain, C. R; et al. 2003. Risk Factors For Femicide in Abusive Relationships:Results From A Multi-Site Case Control Study. American Journal of Public Health. 93(7).[2] Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Data, U.S. Department of Justice, 2003-2012[3] Non-fatal strangulation is an Important Risk Factor for Homicide of Women, The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 2008[4] Campbell, et al, CDC, 2002[5] Assessing Dangerousness, “Prediction of Homicide of and by Battered Women,” Jacquelyn Campbell, 1995 

12/28/15 – Thinking About Victims and Survivors Over the Holiday Season

The holidays are a time of celebration, reflection, and an opportunity to look ahead to the New Year with hope and excitement. Domestic violence is difficult to deal with any time of year, but the holidays can be a particularly challenging for victims, survivors and their families. Research varies regarding the prevalence of domestic violence over the holidays — some studies show an increase in domestic violence during this time, while others show a decline in reported incidents. Regardless, it is important that we do not forget individuals impacted by domestic violence — those who are continuing to live in fear, those who have survived, and the family and friends of loved ones lost to domestic violence. There are things we can do to support someone who is a victim or survivor of domestic violence.

Victims and survivors may require additional support over the holidays as they mourn past relationships or loved ones lost. Some may be unable to see family and friends because of safety risks, staying in a shelter, or their abusive partner has sabotaged family gathering plans. Victims must also think about holiday safety precautions such as changing the location of where they may regularly meet with family and friends, avoiding public holiday gatherings, and refraining from using a return address on holiday cards.

NJCEDV’s member organizations provide emergency safe housing to victims of domestic violence and their children 24 hours a day 7 days a week all year long. It is important that we remember that there are many advocates and counselors across the state who set aside time during the holiday season to be available to support the needs of victims and their children who may be residing in shelters, or in need of emergent support during this time.

There are many ways that community members can support domestic violence programs and victims.

  1. If someone you know is struggling with domestic violence be there to listen to the individual and their concerns especially around safety, and offer to share information for their local domestic violence program or 24-hour hotline.
  2. Many individuals give throughout the holidays in generous ways. Domestic violence programs are often in need of holiday gifts and food to share with families, but also consider items like toiletries, feminine hygiene products, and baby items.
  3. Finally, community members should not underestimate the value of their time. Most domestic violence programs operate with the help of many volunteers that may assist with a variety of tasks. Volunteers over the holiday season can support victims as well as program staff with extra hands to help or provide brief respite. As we think about and remember the victims, survivors, and advocates as we head into 2016, we are filled with hope that the coming year will bring about the support, opportunities and strategies necessary to bring peace to all families.

12/15/15 - NJCEDV Calls on Community Members and the Legislature to Support Victims of Domestic Violence

This Thursday December 17 legislators will have the opportunity to vote on two bills that will have a direct impact on the safety and lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence. The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence calls on the legislature to vote in support of the bills and every citizen in New Jersey to call local representatives so that victims are not left standing alone. For a list of representatives please visit: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/districts/njmap210.html.

Override Governor Chris Christie’s Veto of Bipartisan Bill A4218/S2786: At the time of his veto, Governor Christie stated that one of the reasons for not signing A4218 into law was because the law “substantially restates New Jersey’s existing laws that govern firearms and domestic violence and does not offer new and sensible improvements to those current laws.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. While New Jersey does have strong firearms laws as they relate to domestic violence, the challenge is that the laws are not implemented and applied consistently county to county resulting in gaps in the law enforcement and court response to domestic violence offenders – leaving victims vulnerable and at risk of experiencing further harm or even death. The significance of A4218 is that it seeks to close those loopholes to offer law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and the courts more guidance to make sure that laws are implemented with more consistency county to county regardless of where a victim lives or seeks help – improving safety for all victims in New Jersey.

Vote in Favor of A1677/S995 to Support the Development of a Community Reintegration Program for Certain Survivors of Domestic Violence

The primary purpose of A1677/S995 is to create a Community Reintegration Program for incarcerated persons who have been convicted of a violent crime against another person who had abused them. The primary purpose of this bill is to address the plight of victims of domestic violence who find themselves in the position of using force against someone who had subjected them to years of horrific abuse. When they use force, usually to preserve their own lives, their children’s lives and safety, they may or may not get any consideration of the abuse they experienced in the charging, plea agreement, or sentencing of their case. As a result, they are serving sometimes very lengthy prison terms and unable to receive post-conviction relief. This bill acknowledges the limitations of our justice system to address the special situation these cases present by creating an avenue for mitigating the punishment of these victims in certain cases. This is by no means a get out of jail free card. To be eligible an inmate must serve at least one third of their sentence or 10 years, whichever is less, must have shown good behavior while incarcerated, must not have been convicted of any other violent crime, must be determined to have a small likelihood of recidivism and must not violate any of the conditions of the reintegration program or be subject to reincarceration.

Please support these bills and support victims and survivors of domestic violence – don’t let them stand alone. Together we can improve the safety of all victims of domestic violence in New Jersey.

10/26/15 - New Jersey Employers Can Help End Domestic Violence: Simple Steps Can Save Countless Lives

Access to financial resources is one of the primary indicators of whether a victim of domestic violence will be able to safely and successfully leave an abusive relationship. With 98% of victims of domestic violence experiencing financial abuse and control within the relationship, it can be very difficult for victims to secure the financial support they need to leave and remain independent of the abusive relationship.[i] This makes access to financial resources a critical focus of the work to assist victims of abuse. However, when 96% of employed victims of domestic violence experience problems at work, maintaining employment is no easy task.[ii] Today, the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV) calls the attention of employers, legislators and the public to domestic violence and its relationship to employment and the workplace.

So what do employers need to know?

In addition to assisting with financial independence, workplaces can implement a variety of strategies that help victims stay safe and able to maintain their employment as they address the domestic violence in their lives. For isolated victims of domestic violence, their workplace may provide the physical space victims need to research and connect with resources and outside services without the fear of their partner checking their home computer or cell phone.

It is also important that employers understand that most of the resources and services needed to support victims – including the court system – operate during business hours. Without the ability to take time off from work, many victims opt out of pursuing the avenues they may need to stay safe. If they do pursue them, it is with the risk of losing their employment, which may be their only source of financial security.

The NJCEDV website, www.NJCEDV.org, offers information and resources to assist employers in their implementation of domestic violence intervention and prevention strategies. Employers can partner with their local domestic violence organizations to host lunch and learn events for their employees; train human resource and employee assistance professionals to assess for domestic violence and support employees experiencing domestic violence; and develop victim-centered and trauma-informed policies that help to address the safety needs of employees experiencing violence and abuse.

What about New Jersey legislators?

Legislators can continue creating new options for victims of abuse that help to ensure victims can maintain their employment while they address issues stemming from domestic violence. The New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act went into effect two years ago on October 1, 2013. The SAFE Act requires employers to offer at least 20 days of unpaid leave, annually, to employees who have been victims of domestic violence. The Act also covers workers whose child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner is or was a victim. When victims need it most, the SAFE Act assures victims of domestic violence will not lose their jobs if they need to get medical attention, counseling or other victim services, or need to attend to legal matters. This policy helps empower victims to have peace of mind by knowing they will not lose their job. This legislation allows survivors to make better informed decisions about the steps they may take to keep themselves and their children physically and emotionally safe.

In addition, legislators can push for the pending Earned Sick and Safe Days bill (A2354/S785) to be heard for a vote. This bill would allow workers to earn paid sick or “safe” time to care for themselves or their family in the event of an illness, and to help victims of domestic violence recover and stay safe without fear of losing a paycheck or their jobs. While this bill passed out of committee in the New Jersey Assembly nearly a year ago, it has since stalled, despite the critical support this bill could provide. Time off is important, but unpaid time off is often not an option for many victims – particularly those who are the most economically vulnerable. What can the public do?

Each of us must encourage our employers and legislators to implement policies that enable survivors of abuse to obtain protection and services while maintaining their employment.

“Employers, legislators and the public can, and must, influence how individuals and communities are positioned to address domestic violence in their own lives. Ending domestic violence requires a coordinated community response; by taking action together, we can end it for everyone and create a state where this abuse ceases to exist,” said Jane Shivas, executive director of NJCEDV.”

10/05/15 - New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women Unveils New Name, Logo and Responsive Website at Domestic Violence Awareness Month Kickoff

Recent domestic violence murders show the need for media and community involvement to end domestic violence in New Jersey— it affects everyone.

Joined by Commissioner Dr. Allison Blake from the New Jersey State Department of Children and Families, Senator Diane Allen (R-Burlington), Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex), Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Summit), and many other advocates, survivors and supporters of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness Month with a special press conference and community gathering to celebrate a change for the organization coming nearly 40 years after its inception.

“Today, I am proud to announce that the Coalition will now be known as the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence. We are making this change to reflect our broader goal of preventing and ultimately ending domestic violence for every victim.” The unveiling of the Coalition’s name change and enhanced mission by the organization’s Executive Director Jane Shivas recognized the tireless work of the many advocates throughout the organization’s history. “Since 1978, the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women has had the privilege to serve as a statewide association providing leadership, support and resources on the response and prevention of violence against women in New Jersey.”

Despite the advancement in laws and the number of services available to victims of domestic violence, New Jersey still experiences a high rate of domestic violence incidents including the most fatal. In fact, our hearts are heavy as we recognize that on the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month a man was arrested in the murder of 47-year-old Samantha Ross of South Brunswick, New Jersey. In addition, two more lives were lost over the weekend when Richard Leguern, 67, shot his 72-year-old wife Carol Leguern in an apparent murder-suicide in Deptford, New Jersey.

“Since October 1of last year, there have been more than 30 lives taken by domestic violence in New Jersey alone. These were our mothers, daughters, and sisters. Our fathers, sons, and brothers. They were our neighbors and coworkers. In each of these cases we know there were opportunities where more could have been done. …This violence is preventable.”

The organization highlighted the work that has begun, and the work it plans to continue in an effort to create partnerships that not only respond to domestic violence, but offer solutions that:

  • Name domestic violence in our conversations, in our interventions and in our media reports and stories
  • Acknowledge that domestic violence happens in every one of our communities, to individuals of all backgrounds and cultures regardless of sex, gender, ability, race, religion, socio-economic status, or education level
  • Enhance our communities’ understanding of domestic violence, including its root causes and risk factors
  • Promote healthy relationships for children, teens and adults
  • Build communities in which violence is not tolerated and that equip all of us as bystanders with the tools and information so we can provide appropriate and safe interventions when we are concerned for the safety and well-being of one another

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) sent his support and acknowledgment of the crucial work that organizations such as NJCEDV provide. “Domestic violence is a complex issue that can have ill effects that are long lasting, that can impact children and other family members and can lead to a cycle of violence and abuse. It is also preventable. We will continue to find ways to make sure that organizations like the Coalition have the resources they need to continue their mission and we will continue to increase awareness of the problem in hope that domestic violence is ended.”

And ending domestic violence is the Coalition’s overarching call to action. It’s new campaign “Domestic Violence Affects Everyone. Let’s #endDVinNJ.,” can be seen on billboards throughout the state and online. As domestic violence survivor Elizabeth Paddy (a teacher and minister) said in her speech: Everyone has a right to not only survive, but thrive. Let’s take back our lives. That sentiment resonated with many in attendance as other speakers acknowledged her words.

Shivas ended the event with an immediate call to action inviting attendees to visit the NJCEDV website,www.NJCEDV.org, to learn more about the organization and its member programs. The website offers information for victims and survivors of domestic violence, provides tools for bystanders in a variety of roles and settings, as well as promotes events and training programs taking place across the state. The public can go to www.NJCEDV.org/events to learn more about the events NJCEDV and its member organizations will be sponsoring throughout October, such as

  • October 14, 2015 Health Cares About Domestic & Sexual Violence Day
  • October 19-23, 2015 Week of Action
  • October 22, 2015 Purple Thursday

Ending domestic violence will take a coordinated community response, but there are simple ways to help. It is possible to create a New Jersey where no one has to live in fear of an intimate partner and where the threat of domestic violence no longer exists.

“Let’s take a stand against domestic violence, but not just today, and not just this month, but every day each of us must act. We can all do something to help someone in an abusive relationship. Together we can end domestic violence in New Jersey.”

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