The Domestic Violence Unit, which was established in 1992, addresses domestic abuse between intimate partners and adults who reside in the same household. The Unit reviews cases with the goals of protecting the interests of the victims as well as prosecuting domestic violence incidents.
Domestic abuse is a self-perpetuating and escalating social phenomenon. It affects all people regardless of their race, culture, religion, economic strata, and/or sexual orientation. Criminal sanctions are a key component of society’s response to curtailing this abuse. When appropriate, the Domestic Violence Unit will seek to incarcerate violent and persistent offenders. In many cases, batterers are given the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, with the hopes that this will end the cycle of violence. Additionally, the psychological impact of domestic abuse on the victims and their families is a major factor in our case analysis.
One of the major priorities is attending to the victims from the onset of the investigation to the resolution of the case, including an offering of counseling, relocation, and safety planning. The Domestic Violence Unit, in collaboration with the Victim-Witness Advocacy Unit, offers support to victims with the goal of helping them regain a sense of personal safety and security. Referrals to shelters may also be a viable option when appropriate. This multifaceted approach in victim assistance is necessary because domestic violence victims are often unwilling to testify against their abusers because of safety and financial concerns, the impact on children and other family members, as well as the victim’s own relationship dynamics with the abuser.
It is the job of the Assistant Prosecutor to balance the need for deterrence, the level of cooperation of the victim as well as being a strong advocate for justice. The Domestic Violence Unit serves a pivotal function in the community in its zealous efforts to prosecute abusers and attend to the needs of the victims of abuse.
Furthermore, the Domestic Violence Unit handles cases when defendants are charged with violating civil restraining orders issued to protect victims of domestic abuse. These violations or contempt charges are typically handled in the Family Part. The Domestic Violence Unit also files petitions for the forfeiture of weapons and firearm permits seized as a result of domestic violence incidents. Additionally, when a member of law enforcement is involved in a domestic violence incident and charges are filed and/or a Temporary Restraining Order is granted, the Unit is responsible for reviewing reports and making a recommendation if the officer should be rearmed with his or her service weapon and any personal weapon he or she may own.
Members of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, including personnel in the Domestic Violence Unit, continue to play a significant role in the Essex County Domestic Violence Working Group. These members also play an active role in the Law Enforcement Subcommittee which is comprised of law enforcement, the judiciary, victim service providers, probation officers, and Family Part employees. The Domestic Violence Working Group addresses systemic problems in the domestic violence field and endeavors to coordinate the efforts of the various member organizations. The Group is instrumental in implementing the dictates of the New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Procedures Manual as well as making strides in improving the service of Temporary Restraining Orders.
Proudly, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office is one of the lead partners in the Essex County Family Justice Center, located at 60 Nelson Place, 2nd floor, Newark (973) 230-7229. The Family Justice Center is recognized as a “best practice” in the field of domestic violence intervention and prevention by the U.S. Department of Justice on Violence Against Women. The Family Justice Center brings together, under one roof, domestic violence advocates, civil legal service providers, and other community-based organizations to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, counseling, self-sufficiency services, as well as access to the criminal justice system through a liaison to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.