Recently, the New Jersey State Assembly unanimously approved a half-dozen measures aimed at combating domestic violence.
None of the proposals were directly written in response to the release of the video depicting Ray Rice knocking his now-wife unconscious in an Atlantic City casino hotel elevator back in February. In truth, four of the bills have been awaiting action since 2010.
Nevertheless, the controversy surrounding the former Rutgers University and Baltimore Ravens running back certainly lent a sense of immediacy to the passage of the bills.
Assemblywoman Pamela Rosen Lampitt explained, “This issue of domestic violence isn’t just about Ray Rice… This issue, we have talked about in [the] Women & Children [Committee] before, and we’re going to continue to do so because it is a relevant issue and the Ray Rice issue just elevated [it] as such.”
Tragically, there are more than 70,000 domestic violence cases a year in New Jersey. More than 4,500 are severe enough to trigger a restraining order.
Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande noted that more needs to be done. She explained that&mash;in her eyes—it is unacceptable that 40,000 domestic violence cases go through municipal courts, especially when those judges only get 90 minutes of training on the subject.
Referencing the Ray Rice incident, Assemblywoman Casagrande said, “We have a long way to go in connecting the intentions of this house—because I assure you, everyone in this house believes that if you knock a woman unconscious and drag her out of an elevator you belong in prison—and what’s actually going on in the courthouses across New Jersey.”
The retraining order and domestic violence bills now head to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.
The six bills, if passed by the State Senate, would:
- Create a 16-member task force to review current state law, practices, and procedures regarding domestic violence and abuse
- Require defendants convicted of a domestic violence offense who are placed on probation or have their sentence suspended to attend domestic violence counseling
- Create a self-defense justification for victims of domestic violence
- Require law enforcement officers to search domestic violence restraining order registries upon every arrest
- Permit a witness who is under the age of 16 or a victim of any age to testify by closed-circuit television in domestic violence prosecutions
- Permit victims to secure restraining orders against perpetrators who are strangers or casual acquaintances