Assembly panel passes legislation regulating counseling for domestic violence offenders

Assembly panel passes legislation regulating counseling for domestic violence offenders

Nancy F. Munoz

TRENTON, N.J. – In an effort to enforce abuser accountability, enhance victim safety and prevent future violence, the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday passed a bill establishing uniform standards for counseling provided to domestic violence offenders.

Stemming from the 2015 Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence recommendations, the bill (A1772) requires counseling programs to emphasize behavioral change, educate offenders on power and control issues, and implement attendance reporting protocols.

“The safety of domestic violence survivors has never felt more threatened than now. Increasing calls for help during the pandemic and the government’s Covid-19 shutdowns have underscored the need to regulate domestic violence counseling so that we can be sure programs are properly prioritizing victims and holding offenders accountable for their actions,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Union), a prime sponsor of the bill and member of the 2015 committee.

According to the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, requests for domestic violence services jumped 20% in 2020. Many domestic violence programs reported that calls for help spiked 40% to 70% compared to the prior year. One program recorded a 188% increase in the number of shelter nights provided to survivors and their children in the last quarter of 2020, and another had the highest number of hotline calls they had received in 10 years.

Ron Dancer

“This bill protects domestic violence victims and their families by making sure counseling providers are working from the same essential standards and toward the same goals,” said Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Ocean), also a prime sponsor of the measure. “Court-ordered counseling for abusers can be the difference between life and death so it’s critical we get it right.”

A new Abuse Intervention Program Advisory Committee of court officials, representatives from state agencies, domestic violence advocates, mental health professionals, faith leaders, community providers and others, would be created within the Department of Children and Families.