Domestic Violence Protection in New Jersey
Updated: Jul 3, 2019
In New Jersey, domestic violence generally is defined as actual or threatened harm committed by a current or former family or household member, or romantic partner against another, but also can be harassment by email, text message, social media posts, or by phone calls. A recent amendment to New Jersey law added “criminal coercion” by one person in this class against the victim when the abuser takes actions designed to substantially harm the victim with respect to her or his “health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.” The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or verbal. Domestic violence often is used by one party to gain or maintain control over another or to harm someone. It happens across all sectors of the populations despite gender, religion, age, race, sexual orientation, or educational differences.
Domestic violence has been a part of Western culture for thousands of years. The notion that women and children “belong” to a man was written into various civil and religious laws throughout history. In colonial America, English common law allowed physical "chastisement," as long as the husband did not inflict permanent damage on his wife. It wasn’t until 1871, in a landmark case, Fulgham v. the State of Alabama, that the courts first ruled against a husband’s right to physical abuse.
Unfortunately, this ruling did not prevent women and children from being abused. Women who tried to take their abuser to court had little success. In fact, in 1910, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a wife had no cause for action on her husband because it "would open the doors of the courts to accusations of all sorts of one spouse against the other and bring into public notice complaints for assaults, slander and libel."
It wasn’t until 1991, that the New Jersey Legislature declared domestic violence a serious crime and enacted the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 and published the first Domestic Violence Procedures Manual. The Legislature’s investigation into this issue revealed that thousands of people in New Jersey were regularly beaten, tortured and sometimes killed. It found a link between spousal abuse and child abuse and discovered that even children who did not suffer direct physical abuse had psychological trauma resulting from exposure to domestic violence. The legislature also documented abuse among the elderly.
Women are much more likely to be victims of domestic violence with 85% of domestic abuse victims being women compared to 15% men. From 2001 to 2012, 11,766 women murdered by current or ex male partners. During that same time period, 6,488 American troops were killed as a result of the war in Afghanistan. Almost twice as many women were killed by domestic violence as troops at war.
Types of Domestic Violence
Verbal abuse - Using words to cause significant damage. This may include screaming, shouting, put-downs, name-calling, swearing, using sarcasm or ridiculing her for her religious beliefs or ethnic background. Verbal abuse is often a precursor to physical violence.
Physical abuse - Pushing, shoving, hitting, slapping, attempted strangulation, hair-pulling, punching etc. with or without the use of weapons. Withholding access to resources necessary to maintain health such as medication, medical care, wheelchair, food or fluids, or sleep are also types of physical abuse.
Emotional abuse - Constant criticism, belittling the victim's abilities and competency, name-calling, insults, put-downs, silent treatment, manipulating victim's feelings and emotions to induce guilt. It can also be behavior that deliberately undermines the victim’s confidence leading her to believe she is stupid or that she is 'a bad mother,' that she is useless or that she is going crazy.
Economic abuse - The abuser takes full control of all the finances, spending and decisions about money so the victim is financially dependent on her abuser. The abuser may deny her access to money, even her own, and force her and her children to live on inadequate resources. He may run up bills for which the victim must pay.
Sexual abuse - Any unwanted sexual activity or behaviors. The abuse can be in the form of marital rape, physical violence followed by forcing sex, sexually demeaning the victim, or telling sexual jokes at the victim’s expense.
The New Jersey Domestic Violence Act provides for two forms of relief to a victim of domestic violence:
Civil relief where the victim obtains a restraining order
Criminal relief which allows a victim to file criminal complaints against the abuser
If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, and would like to discuss civil or criminal options, please contact the Law Office of Leslie Farber. As a family lawyer for many years, you will be in compassionate, expert hands.
The contents of this writing are intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances.