TRENTON – In a move to strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence, the Senate passed two bills sponsored by Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz, Senator Sandra Cunningham, Senator Linda Greenstein, and Senator Vin Gopal to require courts to consider patterns of coercive control when considering the issuance of a restraining order and expand domestic violence restraining orders.
The first bill, S-1809, sponsored by Senators Ruiz and Cunningham, would require courts to consider patterns of coercive control when weighing the necessity of ordering a domestic violence restraining order. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines coercive control as “behaviors that are intended to monitor and control or threaten an intimate partner”. The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey notes that, each year, 17.3 million men and 12.7 million women suffer from coercive control in the United States.
Examples of coercive control described under the bill include the deprivation of basic necessities, purposeful isolation from sources of support such as friends or family, and excessive monitoring of a person’s movements, communications, or finances.
“Over time, coercively controlling behavior erodes an individual’s sense of self, their self-esteem, and their autonomy,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “There is a correlation between coercive control and serious physical abuse. Now, we have a better understanding of this behavior, and by considering coercive control with domestic violence cases we can protect more victims.”
The second bill, S-1516, sponsored by Senators Greenstein and Gopal, would permit courts to include in domestic violence restraining orders a provision making the order applicable to a pregnant victim’s child upon birth of the child.
Under the bill, the provisions of the protection order would apply to the victim’s child immediately upon birth. Such a provision would only apply after the child is born.
“Seeking protections within the justice system can be extremely time consuming and strenuous,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Extending domestic violence provisions to children upon birth relieves the new parent of worry and needless stress in the already stressful period after childbirth, and can better prevent abusers from targeting a child.”
“It is a sad reality to see people being abused or even killed by partners they once trusted; furthermore, it is critical that we take whatever steps necessary to protect survivors as well as their newborn children and to allow those children to be raised in a safe space with the fullest protection against potential harm,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth).
The bills were both passed by the Senate in a 34-0 vote.