A New Jersey Assembly committee has advanced a package of bills intended to combat domestic violence.
The legislation would expand protections for victims, allow victims younger than 16 to testify for court proceedings by closed circuit television, and require counseling for convicted offenders.
During a hearing on the measures Thursday, Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, D-Gloucester, said her mother is a domestic violence survivor.
“I witnessed it as a child, so when I hear about these bills, sitting here, it’s very emotional for me,” she said. “And the only way to move forward as a population is to make sure that we educate everyone about the horrors of the abuse.”
The hearing coincided with the furor over the surveillance video showing football player Ray Rice punching his wife unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator.
Bernadette Lambe, an advocate for victims at the Camden County Women’s Center, said that there has been much speculation over why Rice’s wife stayed with him after the assault.
“We’re putting all of our focus on the responsibility of the victim to get out of that situation, when our focus really needs to be on why do we tolerate that?” she testified. “Why are so many people surprised when they saw that video?”
The measures, which received unanimous bipartisan approval from the Assembly’s Women and Children Committee, would create a self-defense justification for domestic violence victims who fight back against their abusers.
The measure requiring counseling for offenders could have long-lasting, preventive effects, said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer.
As it stands, an offender, “if they’re actually convicted, they would just pay their fine or serve a sentence and go on and often repeat the same behavior,” he said. “At least there’s a hope with counseling or some kind of anger management they may start to really address the underlying causes for domestic violence.”
Supporters say if they become law, the measures will give domestic violence survivors more opportunities to seek justice and hold more offenders accountable.