On March 13, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. By August 5, New Jersey had more than 189,000 cases and nearly 16,000 deaths. With stay-at-home orders in place, victims of domestic violence suffered at home and had limited access to resources. This dire situation has put the need for access to domestic violence resources for both social and health services at the forefront. Here are the resources everyone should know about:
Your Divorce Lawyer
The first place to start, if your means allow, is with a divorce and family law attorney that has experience in domestic violence. Such an attorney would be an excellent resource for help when you’re dealing with domestic violence, especially during the pandemic. If you or your abuser has been infected or exposed to COVID-19, it may be in your best interest to speak with a divorce and family law attorney immediately. Many matters can be handled by phone or video conference. If that’s not a safe option for you, these inquiries can also be handled by electronic or regular mail.
Should you be unable to consult with or retain an attorney, please consider the following options as effective resources to help:
New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline
The New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline is staffed 24/7 and provides confidential access to information and resources related to domestic violence. Crisis intervention and referrals are available. This hotline also has access for those who are hearing impaired or who don’t speak English. The number is 1-800-572-SAFE (7233). We can recommend a hotline to you if you’re in crisis and need to get away from your partner because of a life-threatening situation. They can put you in contact with shelters and agencies paying for hotel rooms during the pandemic.
New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) Hotline
The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) Hotline is for victims of sexual assault and sexual violence. Their number is 1-800-601-7200, but calls are routed to the sexual assault crisis center closest to your location. The phone line is staffed 24/7 by experienced counselors and volunteers. This agency provides access to material assistance and referrals for safe shelter during COVID-19.
VictimsVoice is a web-based documentation tool that ensures the user is collecting and securely storing the information needed to get protection and seek legal justice. Approved, recommended, and distributed by attorneys, victim advocates, nonprofits, and prosecutors throughout the US, this tool meets the strict legal standards of court admissibility as evidence. While there is an annual license fee of $40, you may obtain a free license from “VictimsVoice Partners” around New Jersey, including Lawrence Law.
Contact the Court
If you’re already in the process of divorce, getting a restraining order, or attending to some other matter before the court, you need to find out whether or not the court is continuing operations. In New Jersey, courts never closed as a result of COVID-19 and remain open. It is important that you not miss a required appearance, or you could find yourself in violation of the law. The judge could also dismiss your case if you fail to show up. Contact the court directly with your case number in order to learn whether or not cases are proceeding in person, if they are on hold, or if they are being conducted virtually or by phone. If you’re not sure of who to call at the court, we can assist you.
The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence
The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence is sponsored in part by the state of New Jersey as well as other nonprofit organizations. Some of their programs are now offered on a remote basis, which will continue until the pandemic designation is removed for COVID-19, there is a vaccine, or there is a cure for the disease. Some services are still available in person but on a limited basis. The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence has expanded its telephone operations in order to make up for the decrease in in-person services.
New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center
In New Jersey, victims of any crime can receive legal assistance, referrals, and resources through the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center. They offer resources related to emergency shelter, food, legal assistance, and more. Their email is email@example.com, and their office phone is (973) 512-3246. Phones are staffed on weekdays during business hours.
Rutgers Domestic Violence Clinic
Residents of southern New Jersey can access free assistance and referrals through the Rutgers Domestic Violence Clinic. This office serves sexual assault and domestic violence victims in New Jersey. Specifically, they can help victims obtain restraining orders. You can reach the Rutgers Domestic Violence Clinic at (856) 225-6568.
Rutgers Law Associates
Rutgers also operates a free legal clinic for domestic violence victims in Newark and Camden. Victims should be able to receive a call from a blocked number. This legal clinic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call their Newark office at (973) 353-2564 or their Camden office at (856) 225-6088.
Women’s Referral Central Hotline
The Women’s Referral Central Hotline offers a full range of services to women who are victims of domestic violence. They provide shelter, childcare, housing assistance, clothing assistance, job training, and employment assistance. They also help women who are dealing with divorce, single parenting, and discrimination. Their 24/7 hotline number is 1-800-322-8092.
National Network to End Domestic Violence, Inc.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence, Inc. operates a resource and referral service for women in New Jersey. In light of the pandemic, their website offers a list of shelters that are still open and accepting new residents who are victims of domestic violence. They also offer guidance for women who have tested positive for COVID-19 or whose abuser has tested positive.
If you’re in need of medical care for your injuries from domestic violence or mental health care, Medicaid is another resource available to you. This is an income-based government health care program. If you qualify for Medicaid, you may also qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or cash assistance for food and housing.
Specific Tips for COVID-19 Safety
If you have to leave your residence because of domestic violence, keep COVID-19 preventative hygiene in mind. Wear a mask and practice social distancing. If possible, stay in the home of a friend or family member or in a hotel. Tell a trusted friend or family member what your emergency plan is if you need to leave your abusive domestic partner. Keep your vehicle fueled and serviced in case you need to leave in a hurry. Your vehicle may be an option if no shelter beds are open. Get yourself on a waiting list for several shelters. Practice good hand washing and use hand sanitizer. Avoid going in crowded or public places whenever possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays, holds, and changes in court proceedings as well as the ability to enter a shelter and access other victim services. If you need legal help with a restraining order, access to your bank account, or a safe place to live, we are here to assist you every step of the way.
Jeralyn Lawrence is the Founder and Managing Partner of matrimonial, divorce and family law firm Lawrence Law. She is First Vice President of the New Jersey State Bar Association and President Elect of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Lawrence Law has offices in Watchung and Red Bank, New Jersey.