Domestic Violence: A Crime We Cannot Afford

By Melanie Roth Gorelick

Over the past year, the CRC in collaboration with the Rachel Coalition has been spearheading an effort to strengthen the coordination between domestic violence service providers and legislators. It will culminate next week on May 8, when we are cosponsoring a Roundtable on Ending Domestic Violence in New Jersey: Prevention, Protection and Support with the NJ Coalition for Battered Women and Partners for Women and Justice at the JCC MetroWest. The program will bring together the Administration, the Attorney General’s office, legislators, and service providers to address these concerns.

This year domestic violence received national media attention due to violent incidents by professional athletes and the athletic industry’s evolving response to crimes of violence. While media stories come and go, domestic violence, and the fear experienced by victims living under the threat of violence, does not.

The issue of domestic violence is of great concern to our Greater MetroWest community and we are a proud supporter of the Rachel Coalition, one of our partner organizations. The Jewish Family Service of Greater MetroWest administers the programs and services of the Rachel Coalition. The CRC often collaborates with agencies on public policy matters.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women act, the Rachel Coalition identified the need to forge greater collaboration between legislators and practitioners to ensure that when legislation is proposed it fully captures the need of the target audience. Since that time we have been on a journey working on an effort to expand and strengthen coordination and planning among those involved in NJ-based domestic violence issues, including residential and non-residential providers, legal services, and legislators.

In 1982, New Jersey adopted the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to protect victims of abuse and provide and create a comprehensive framework to combat the crime of domestic violence. Although New Jersey is a leading state in addressing, protecting, and supporting victims, domestic violence remains at a staggering high level.

In 2014, according to the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women:

• Twenty-three domestic violence agencies in New Jersey served 17,500 women, children, and men in NJ.

• 90,000 hotline calls were received.

• 1,500 victims and their 1,800 children were sheltered while 14,000 victims and children were provided essential non-residential services.

• 1,082 victims and their 1,179 children were unable to be sheltered at their local program due to a lack of space – prolonging their exposure to abusers. A greater number of victims were turned away from shelters this year due to lack of space.

• 1,450 victims and 350 batterers were put on waiting lists for non-residential services due to a lack of staff to provide services.

• 21,090 non-residential victims received legal advocacy services, which was a 7% increase from 2012.

• Of the total number of women admitted to shelters only 20% were current welfare recipients, and 8% were receiving emergency assistance.

No one should be a victim of domestic violence. To stop domestic violence we must have a vision of society in which all of our family members are safe.

We are proud that our Jewish community continues to work toward achieving that vision. At our May 8 program we will have representation of the highest levels of NJ government, including Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, Senator Majority Speaker Loretta Weinberg, and Elie Honig, Office of the Attorney General’s Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, as well as other legislators and 40 domestic violence leaders.

Domestic violence currently costs the United States an estimated $5.8 billion each year. It is a crime we cannot afford either monetarily or morally.

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