Committee clears legislation regulating counseling for domestic violence offenders

Committee clears legislation regulating counseling for domestic violence offenders

Nancy F. Munoz

TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday passed a bill adopting standards to govern Batterers’ Intervention Programs, which provide counseling to domestic violence offenders.   

Stemming from the 2015 Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence recommendations, and sponsored by committee member Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz and Assemblyman Ron Dancer, the bill (A1772) creates more uniform domestic violence counseling while emphasizing offender accountability and greater protection of victims.

“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 has illustrated the urgency to create uniform counseling standards that prioritize victims, increase accountability and prevent future abuse,” Munoz (R-Union) said.

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 all working from the same essential standards,” Dancer (R-Ocean) said. “Court-ordered counseling for abusers can be the difference between life and death so it’s critical we get it right.”

Under the bill, any Batterers’ Intervention Program in which a defendant participates based on a court order would be required to hold offenders accountable for their behavior while assessing the risks to the safety of victims and children and requiring regular reviews and compliance audits.

The bill, which unanimously passed the Senate in June, goes to the speaker for further consideration.