Coercive control is now considered domestic violence in New Jersey, according to bill signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Phil Murphy.
Courts must now consider patterns of coercive control — including when an abuser isolates a victim from friends and family — when issuing restraining orders in domestic violence cases, according to the new law.
Other examples of coercive control include depriving victims of basic necessities, calling them names or controlling their movements, communications and finances.
“Coercive control is really like the foundation of all domestic abuse,” said Courtney Gilmartin, a domestic abuse survivor who advocated for the change. “It’s like the underpinning of it all.”
The new law closes a gap that existed for some victims when their cases went to court or they sought restraining orders, she said. Because coercive control wasn’t recognized as a form of domestic abuse, it created “a kind of gray area” in legal proceedings, particularly in child custody cases.
“Now that the law has a more blanket definition, it’ll be easier for informed litigants to use it in a way that’s beneficial during their custody litigation,” Gilmartin said.
The legislation, A1475, was first introduced in the state Assembly in January 2022.
Gilmartin, of Brielle, testified in front of both houses last year in support of the bill. She described its passage as a grassroots effort that started three years ago.
Gilmartin and her friend, Alla Kotinsky, helped found the domestic abuse nonprofit group New Jersey Protective Moms. They reached out to other women impacted by coercive control to encourage them to write letters and contact their legislators.
For many victims, coercive control can be defined as “the torment that happens in between reportable events, whether that’s violence or something else,” Gilmartin said.
“In between those times, there’s all these other things that are going on that the abuser is engaging in, which falls into this coercive control bucket,” she added.
When the state Senate version of the bill, S1809, passed, Gilmartin and her friend were able to see it happen live.
“I’ve heard from women who lived in fear, isolated and cut off from family and friends by an abusive partner,” Assemblywomen Yvonne Lopez, D-Middlesex, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said in a statement. “This controlling behavior deprives an individual of their independence.”
“For instance, abusers might monitor a victim’s communications, or make that person completely dependent on them financially,” she said. “Now victims will have added protection under the law.”
Other bills related to domestic violence were also recently signed into law by Murphy, include:
- A1704, which requires domestic violence orders to be issued in other languages in addition to English under certain circumstances.
- A3093, which authorizes the court to include a provision that a domestic violence restraining order be applicable to a pregnant victim’s child when the baby is born.
- A5285, which requires copies of certain law enforcement records be provided to victims of domestic violence upon request
Source: Brianna Kudisch, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com. Click here to view original post