| Photo by Andrew Scheer via Flickr/Commons CC0 1.0
JERSEY CITY – In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, and in response to an increase in domestic violence cases since the COVID-19 outbreak, the City of Jersey City has launched a Municipal Court Safe Serenity Room. Exclusively designed as a resource center and haven for domestic violence survivors involved in stressful and complicated court proceedings, it is secured at the Lewis S. McRae Justice Complex.
The room, outfitted with a large screen monitor designed to see and hear court cases so that survivors and children do not have to be in the same courtroom as their offenders. They are often directly exposed to the unfolding court proceedings, including allegations of abuse and child custody orders involving family members and loved ones. It provides a calming atmosphere with comfortable furniture and domestic violence resources for those seeking help. Additionally, the Safe Serenity Room includes a child-friendly area with books and toys for children’s entertainment while concurrently removing children from a tension-filled courtroom.
“This is a significant step that plays a much bigger role in our broader efforts to address all public safety issues,” said Mayor Steven M Fulop. “The goal here is to provide added safety for domestic violence survivors, and we’re taking it a step further by providing families with the services and resources extending beyond the courtroom to help them successfully move forward with their lives.”
“In Jersey City, we understand the role of a prosecutor is much more than bringing a case to court. We value the importance of making domestic violence survivors whole by mitigating the challenges associated with coming to court and giving them resources to thrive long after their case is closed,” added Municipal Prosecutor Jake Hudnut.
Currently, the Jersey City Municipal Court has one court dedicated to domestic violence, which handles over 100 domestic violence cases per week. The Municipal Court’s ultimate case management services will include employment support, social services benefits, and community resources.
The City of Jersey City is partnering with two powerful community nonprofit organizations, Women Rising and Sarah’s Daughters, to provide volunteer victim advocates who offer in-court referrals. Counselors will meet one-on-one with domestic violence survivors and provide the vital tools they need to move forward, such as sheltering, relocation assistance, counseling, and victim compensation.
Jersey City’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Division of Violence Prevention will also offer Duluth-style counseling for defendants.
“The court strives to make resources available for survivors of domestic violence, particularly with challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic. Jersey City Municipal Court is committed to providing a safe and comfortable environment for all court users. The court hopes to extend further resources to residents by collaborating with service providers and agencies to offer additional resources,” said Wendy Razzoli, Municipal Court Director.
Following New Jersey protocols, all municipal court remains virtual. However, the court makes the Safe Serenity Room available for domestic violence survivors before and after any court proceedings.
–With Jay Domingo