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Remote testimony may be possible for domestic violence victim

Domestic violence is a topic that can make people uncomfortable. A victim is often left feeling drained of all their power and defenseless. Unfortunately, domestic violence can happen in any home across New Jersey. Therefore it is important to talk openly and honestly about this issue rather than to avert our eyes as a society to what makes us uncomfortable.

Under the Constitution, those on trial have the right to face their accusers. For New Jersey victims of domestic violence, facing the individual accused of harming them is a frightening idea, causing many to forego pressing charges. A new bill approved by a New Jersey Assembly committee on Sept. 27 may help some of those victims step forward by allowing them to testify remotely by camera.

Although prosecutors are likely largely in favor of the plan to allow for remote testimony, some legal experts argue that the new bill may be unconstitutional, violating the right of the accused to actually face an accuser. Those in favor of the bill disagree, stating that the accuser can still be questioned by lawyers and judges in real-time.

Testimony via closed-circuit television is already permissible in some context in New Jersey courts. Currently, the youngest victims of sexual assault, meaning children, are permitted to issue videotaped testimony. Forcing a victim, whether a child or a battered adult, to relive the pain enacted against them in witness of the abuser can be a traumatic experience that deters victims from testifying.

With passage of the New Jersey bill, more victims of domestic violence may come forward. This can prevent future assaults, possibly give the victim a sense of closure, as well as punish abusers. However, enactment of this remains to be seen as the constitutional implications may leave the proposed law open to challenge that may delay its full enforcement.

Regardless of passage of this into law or not, the implications regarding a divorce in New Jersey involving domestic violence stand. The largest implication falls in the realm of child custody agreements. An abuser is drastically diminishing their chances of obtaining custody or even playing a meaningful role in the life of their children in the wake of a divorce. A victim of spousal abuse can protect their children from an abusive parent.

Source: SF Gate, "Court protection sought in domestic violence cases," Angela Delli Santi, Sept. 27, 2012

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