Men and women who commit domestic violence in New Jersey could soon be required to attend specific types of counseling programs.

Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union, is sponsoring a measure, A229, that requires uniform counseling programs to be established that would emphasize behavioral change as well as educate offenders on power and control issues and implement attendance reporting protocols.

Domestic violence is not just an anger management issue

She said several excellent programs have been developed for domestic violence survivors but “what we found was we don’t have a consistent program for the batterers, so that’s batterers intervention programs, they’re inconstant across the state.”

She said several programs that batterers are currently referred to focus on anger management but “anger management is not the reason many batterers batter. Those programs aren’t intended to be focused on the domestic violence batterer.”

Munoz said you can have an anger management issue and not be a domestic violence batterer, and you can be a batterer and not have an anger management issue.

“We found that in the past the courts were directing the batterers into these anger management programs, which the experts in the field found were not the appropriate treatment,” she said.

Only about half of the counties in New Jersey currently have a batterers' intervention program.

“The batterers also are looking for these programs," she said. "Many of these batterers are looking for help.”

She said the goal of the measure is to make counseling more effective. The program would be selected by an advisory committee in the Department of Children and Families.

Domestic violence
Domestic violence protest (Joe Raedle, Getty Images)
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Munoz said this issue needs to be addressed because the pandemic has made things worse.

The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence reports requests for domestic violence services jumped 20% in 2020, and many local domestic violence programs around reported that calls for help spiked 40% to 70% from the previous year.

Munoz said this and other legislation stemmed from recommendations formulated by the 2015 Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence, a panel she served on.

The measure, which has been cleared by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, is being co-sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Monmouth.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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