TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg that would exempt rape and domestic victim counselors from having to testify in criminal cases was approved today by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The time period immediately following an attack, once a victim decides to step up and report the assault is critical to the healing process. Many victims choose to work through their pain in secret for fear of ridicule, especially in public, high profile cases, but what they don’t realize is that silence allows the violent behavior to continue,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary panel. “This legislation would allow victims to fully confide in their counselors in the presence of police officers and know that information given to counselors in confidentiality will, by law, remain confidential.”
Senator Weinberg’s bill, S-694, would expand the definition of “confidential communications” to include statements given during an interview between a victim, a rape counselor and a law enforcement officer. Victim counselors would also be exempt from having to testify in criminal cases. Under current law, victims are exempt from having to testify in court cases.
“The concept for this legislation came from the Bergen County Rape Crisis Center and from Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, who felt that the current law provided a conflict of interest in only granting limited protection for victim-counselor privilege. Working through violent acts like rape and domestic violence take time and soul searching, and this legislation would allow victims and counselors to maintain their privacy throughout the healing process,” said Senator Weinberg.
This measure now heads to the full Senate for a vote.