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Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a new package of bills that will ensure a stronger voice and more justice for sexual assault victims, who are often discouraged from advocating for themselves by a muddled criminal justice system. 

The bills were put together by recommendations from a team that includes a panel of female state politicians, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, and a former volunteer on the governor’s 2017 campaign, Katie Brennan. Brennan, who later accepted a chief of staff position with the state, accused a campaign staffer of rape. After three years of hearings, she won a $1 million suit against the state, donating her winnings to charity.

The bills will do the following:

  • Require the attorney general to keep track of sexual assault cases and compile an annual report of their outcomes
  • Ensure that victims receive a copy of their rape complaint and a form to make any changes, with the help of the county prosecutor’s office
  • The prosecutor will also be required to notify victims of what charges will be filed, either by text, call or an in-person meeting 
  • Create a three-year “Sexual Violence Restorative Justice Pilot Program” for victims and perpetrators to find non-judicial healing solutions
  • Institute training for county prosecutors and their assistants on handling sexual assault cases, including alternative paths to restorative justice 
  • Mandate that state and local police will elect trained sexual violence liaisons to act as the go-to officer for all relevant cases
  • Ensure that victims receive a packet containing an explanation of their rights, the current laws and court processes, counseling options and a phone number to call for updates on their case

Two other bills were left out of the package, but Brennan’s team and the bill’s sponsors hope they will soon follow suit. 

The first, which has not yet made it to the legislature, would expand that body’s sexual harassment policy to protect more of its members, including volunteers and interns. It would force complaint investigations to have a deadline.

The second, which has passed the Senate but has not been put to the Assembly, would create an anti-harassment and discrimination policy to protect all state employees. 

Related: Sexual Abuse Victims Given More Time to Seek Justice in New Jersey

Ninety percent of rape victims are women, but it affects other members of the population too. Native Americans, members of the LBGTQ community, incarcerated people, and even those with special needs all experience a high ratio of sexual abuse. Victims can become depressed or suicidal, struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, and become pregnant, effects that can stay with them for the rest of their lives. 

Related: Why Hotel Workers Are Prime Targets For Sexual Abuse

The ramped-up efforts made by the state of New Jersey represent progress in creating a safer and more just system. However, if you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual abuse, you may need to seek legal representation in your efforts to reach justice. The team at D’Arcy Johnson Day is educated, experienced and passionate about delivering the justice you deserve. Contact us here or by calling 866-327-2952 for a free and confidential consultation. 

See Our Full Legal Guide to Sexual Abuse

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