Traditionally, New Jersey law has only permitted two kinds of victims to seek restraining orders against their abusers: Those subjected to domestic violence and stalking victims who are either younger than the age of majority or are adults with developmental disabilities. Yet, not all victims of stalking, harassment, or abuse who are in need of protection fall into these two classifications. The so-called “stranger loophole” has long made it impossible for victims of abuse who do not know their abusers to seek the state's formal protection.
Thankfully, the law in New Jersey has recently been amended to extend the safeguards afforded by restraining orders to those who do not fit into traditional abuse victim classifications. In mid-July, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that both closed the stranger loophole and renamed a landmark 2015 abuse victim bill to better reflect the inclusive nature of the state's new approach.
The Loophole in Need of Closure
In 2015, the New Jersey legislature passed the Sexual Assault Survivors Protection Act (SASPA). This law newly permitted victims of sexual assault to seek restraining orders against their abusers even if no criminal charges had been filed against them. Because most sexual assault survivors know their abusers, the domestic violence survivor classification applies to the majority of victims who need to make use of their rights under this law.
However, there is a significant percentage of sexual assault, stalking, harassment, and abuse victims who have never had a romantic relationship or a familial relationship with their abusers. Of these victims, only minors and adults with developmental disabilities who were facing stalking scenarios have traditionally been permitted to seek restraining orders under New Jersey law.
What Is the New Law and What Does It Do?
The new law renames the SASPA to the “Victim's Assistance and Survivor Protection Act” in order to reflect the state's new commitment to extending restraining order opportunities to all victims of abuse, sexual assault, stalking, and unlawful harassment.
No longer does a victim have to illustrate a relationship with their abuser to seek protection. Additionally, cyberstalking now qualifies as grounds upon which a victim of unlawful contact can seek an order of protection in New Jersey.
Assistance Obtaining Restraining Orders Is Available
The opportunity to seek a restraining order against an abuser is now expanded in New Jersey, but the process of obtaining one remains challenging under a variety of circumstances. Know that the dedicated Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm is available to provide necessary support and legal guidance as an abuse victim of any kind seeks to gain temporary and lasting protection from an abuser.
If you are weathering an abusive situation, the Lento Family Law Team can assist you as you courageously ask the state for formal protection against an abuser. To learn more about your rights and options under New Jersey state law, call 888-535-3686 or contact our team online to speak with an advocate in a risk-free, no-cost legal consultation setting. We look forward to hearing from you.