PARSIPPANY, N.J., Nov. 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The number of domestic violence restraining orders issued in New Jersey has spiked since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in March, and this may be a leading indicator of just how dramatically the pandemic impacted domestic violence rates in the state, say the authors of a newly published investigative piece for the New Jersey Law Journal, “Domestic violence in New Jersey during the COVID-19 pandemic: What happened and how can we do a better job of helping victims?“
Family law expert Bari Z. Weinberger, founder of Weinberger Divorce & Law Group and the article’s lead author, used data from the New Jersey Superior Courts and Newark Police Department to reach clearer, more conclusive findings about the risk victims faced as a consequence of pandemic lockdown measures.
“New Jersey’s ‘stay at home’ orders were intended to save lives. However, we need to acknowledge that for victims of domestic violence, lockdown brought increased risk. To stop the spread of coronavirus, victims suddenly found themselves isolated at home with their abusers…often in harm’s way,” says Weinberger.
Against this bleak backdrop, many feared incidences of abuse would spike, especially with courthouse closures making help all the more difficult to obtain.
Weinberger, with coauthor Dan Pollack, MSSW, Esq, professor of social work at Yeshiva University, analyzed domestic violence outcomes for spring and summer using arrest data from the Newark Department of Public Safety, restraining order data provided by the NJ Superior Courts and other published sources. Key findings from their report include:
– A drop in domestic violence calls to police several weeks into the pandemic, interpreted as a sign that unreported domestic violence was rising. Victims may have lacked privacy to call for help and/or did not know how to access help due to court closures and difficulty leaving home. On March 31, Governor Phil Murphy tweeted that “stay at home measures did not apply to victims seeking help,” a visible clue that government officials were aware of underreporting.
– Arrest data samples for 2020 and 2018 from Newark revealed domestic violence arrests were lower in early March 2020 than in early March 2018 but began to increase in late March of 2020 and remained elevated (relative to 2018) through July 2020. In its own analysis, the Newark Department of Public Safety reported 188 domestic violence incidents from March 21 through April 7, an 18% increase over the same period in 2019.
– Data produced by the NJ Superior Court disseminating statewide applications for temporary restraining orders (TROs) showed relatively low numbers of requests in March and April, with most TROs issued by police and very few issued by the courts. As courts reopened, there were more overall requests. From late July to mid-September, total TRO requests rose sharply compared to pre-March levels.
As Weinberger explains, “The temporary drop and subsequent surge in TROs over the course of the pandemic is a logical result of stressors such as job loss and sustained separation from outside sources of support increasing over time and continuing for months.”
With so much uncertainty over COVID-19 still present as we head into winter, Weinberger and Pollack hope this new information will motivate the legal community to do a better job letting victims know that help is available.
“If ever there was an issue that showed our community that we’re all in this together, it’s this one. Let’s rise to the challenge of helping victims in this time of isolation realize they’re not alone,” affirms Weinberger.
Bari Weinberger, Esq.
SOURCE Bari Z. Weinberger, Esq.