Sexual assault bill package approved, now on Murphy’s desk
TRENTON – Lawmakers have given their final approval to seven bills seeking to improve how New Jersey handles sexual assault cases.
The package is now on the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy, who will probably have until early May to act on them. An eighth, related bill approved by the Senate, which would write the state’s Workplace Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Policy into law, is delayed as possible amendments are considered.
“We often stress the importance of believing survivors,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, at a committee hearing. “This package seeks to lay out the framework for not only believing but certainly supporting them and hearing them.”
- A4884/S3070 Establishes "Sexual Violence Restorative Justice Pilot Program."
- A4885/S3071 Requires law enforcement provide victim of sexual assault with initial incident report; provides victim with option to review initial incident report and submit corrective form.
- A4886/S3072 Requires resources be made available to victims of sexual assault.
- A4887/S3073 Establishes right of victims to be notified of county prosecutor's charging decision in sexual assault cases.
- A4888/S3074 Requires attorney general to issue annual report concerning sexual assault cases.
- A4889/S3075 Establishes sexual violence liaison officer in Division of State Police and local police departments.
- A4890/S3076 Requires sexual assault training for prosecutors.
Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, D-Gloucester, said the new laws would “really be impactful.”
“Unfortunately, according to statistics, at least one in five women and one in 71 men are victims of rape, while many others experience some form of sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime,” Mosquera said.
“All of this will help ensure more survivors receive the justice and assistance they deserve,” she said.
The bills passed the Senate unanimously in December and the Assembly unanimously on Monday.
Many of its backers credited Katie Brennan, the chief of staff at the state Housing and Mortgage and Finance Agency, who went public with the troubles she experienced in the investigation of a sexual assault she had reported as a volunteer on Phil Murphy’s 2017 gubernatorial campaign. She helped assemble the current bill package and advocated for its passage.
“When I came forward with that Wall Street Journal article, it was about this. It was about all the process reforms and prosecutorial reforms,” Brennan said. “And I knew then that if what I went through as a woman of immense privilege, then what was it like for everybody else?”
Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the bills can be helpful, in particular the restorative justice effort, because “there’s no one-size-fits-all response to sexual violence that meets the needs of all survivors.”
“This package of bills aims to increase accountability while addressing gaps in current policy and practice within the criminal legal system and provides an opportunity for New Jersey to serve as a national leader,” Teffenhart said.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.