Weinberg Bills to Protect Rights of Survivors of Sexual Assault, Harassment Advance
Reforms grew out of ad hoc Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in NJ Politics
TRENTON – The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee today approved eight bills sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg to protect the rights of survivors of sexual assault, improve law enforcement and judicial case management and training, and codify harassment and discrimination policies throughout state government.
“These bills aim to remedy the pitfalls in our criminal justice system and workplaces that allow violence and misogyny to continue,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “These bills would empower survivors to become informed and pursue their rights. They require anti-harassment training for county prosecutors and require each police department to have a designated sexual violence liaison officer.
“The Attorney General would be required to report annually on sexual assault complaints and how many make it to trial,” she said. “And finally, this package aims to provide recourse to state employees who encounter workplace harassment and discrimination.”
Senator Weinberg noted that the legislation arose out of recommendations that came out of public and private listening sessions held by the informal Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics. She formed the group after a December 2019 Star-Ledger article showed that the #MeToo movement, the Katie Brennan hearings, and earlier legislative reforms had failed to address the rampant misogyny and violence that plagued state politics.
“I undertook this not as ‘Senator Weinberg,’ but as Loretta. All of us on that workgroup, including the Lieutenant Governor, left their professional and political affiliations at the door,” she noted. “We heard peoples’ stories in both public and private sessions, and worked to find the common factors that cause the state to fail to serve and protect sexual violence survivors.”
The bills approved by the committee today, which are sponsored in the Assembly by Deputy Speaker Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), are:
- S3070: Establishes a three-year “Sexual Violence Restorative Justice Pilot Program” in North, Central, and South Jersey to bring survivors and their abusers together to seek collective healing solutions outside the judicial system. (Weinberg/Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer/Hunterdon)
- S3071: Requires law enforcement authorities to provide victims of sexual assault with the initial incident report on their complaint, and provide victims with the option to review the initial incident report before it is filed and state whether they agree or disagree with information contained in the report. (Weinberg/Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex)
- S3072: Requires the Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy and the county prosecutor’s office to share an information packet with victims of sexual assault explaining their rights and relevant laws, the criminal justice process, available counseling and other services, phone numbers for updates on their case, and contact information for both the prosecutor and the Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy. (Weinberg/Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson)
- S3073: Establishes the right of victims of sexual assault to be notified of decisions by county prosecutors on whether to file charges prior to notifying the alleged perpetrator and providing victims with the opportunity to consult with prosecutors before plea deal negotiations are concluded. (Weinberg/Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Passaic)
- S3074: Requires the state Attorney General to monitor sexual assault cases and issue an annual report to the Governor and Legislature, including statistics on reports/complaints filed by victims, referrals to county prosecutors, cases declined to be prosecuted, indictments or charges, downgrading of charges, plea agreements, and police reports. (Weinberg/Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex/Mercer)
- S3075: Establishes sexual violence liaison officers with specialized training in the Division of State Police and local police departments to serve as the in-house expert and primary point of contact on sexual violence cases, provide training to other officers, and monitor station compliance with the law and other directives. (Weinberg/Sen. Nellie Pou, D-Passaic/Bergen)
- S3076: Requires training for county prosecutors and assistant prosecutors every three years on how to handle, investigate, and respond to reports of sexual assault, including training in restorative justice. (Weinberg/Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex)
- S3078: Codifies into law the State Workplace Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Policy, including training requirements, reporting requirements for supervisors, and standards for investigation and disposition of discrimination and harassment complaints (Weinberg/Sen. Dawn Addiego, D-Burlington).
“These are complex issues we are grappling with,” Senator Weinberg acknowledged. “It is no understatement to say that I and others in this Legislature — including the many woman senators who are serving as the co-prime sponsors of these bills — have spent years trying to address the plague of sexual violence, harassment, and discrimination. I am hopeful these bills will meaningfully improve outcomes for sexual assault survivors.”
Quotes from the co-prime sponsors can be found here.