Jersey City has NJ’s first safe space for victims of domestic violence

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JERSEY CITY – One of City Attorney Jake Hudnut’s biggest job challenges is getting someone who thinks they’ve been victimized into court.

This particular problem is now magnified by something that was feared by officials at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and which Hudnut says has unfortunately happened: an increase in reports of domestic violence incidents, in particular in urban areas of New York. Jersey where living space is limited.

To cope with the resulting increase in volume, with the municipal court now handling more than 100 cases per week, Jersey City believes it has set up the state’s first secure space dedicated to victims involved in legal proceedings.

The Safe Serenity Room has comfortable furnishings and child-friendly space, so young family members don’t have to feel like collateral damage during those court appearances.

The duty of a prosecutor is to get to the root of a conflict on both sides, Hudnut said, and the Safe Serenity Room is designed to ease that burden on accusers.

“They are not in the courtroom with their attacker, they don’t have to worry about being intimidated or deterred from participating in the prosecution,” Hudnut said. “We see the volume of cases coming in, and as we go back from a virtual court to a face-to-face court, we thought this was a good opportunity to try a new approach.”

Jersey City Municipal Court remains fully virtual for the time being due to the ongoing pandemic, but Hudnut said there will inevitably be a time when appointments return to “normal.”

He said the Safe Serenity Room, in theory, will be able to function effectively in any format.

“We just want to be sure that when the doors reopen we can do it face to face, and that’s why we are launching this safe space when the time comes,” said Hudnut.

Yet another piece of the puzzle is what happens outside of the courtroom, and the provision of a space like this gives victims “a way out of bad situations,” according to Hudnut. .

Domestic violence cases can start at the city level, he said, but if legal resolutions are not fully implemented, these cases can progress higher – and more dangerously.

Hudnut said no prosecutor wanted to bring someone back to court as a victim of repeated abuse.

“Often by the time a case is brought to court, the parties have come to terms with each other,” he said, “but there is always a problem out there which the data shows is repeating and continuing. gets worse every time. “

And once a case has been resolved, victims may need help picking up the pieces.

For example, the Safe Serenity Room brought together two community-based non-profit organizations, Women Rising and Sarah’s Daughters, to provide counseling, housing and placement assistance.

Patrick Lavery is the anchor for the New Jersey 101.5 afternoon news. Follow it on Twitter @ plavery1015 or send an email to [email protected]

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