Heymann & Fletcher

Bill pushes counseling for children affected by domestic violence

When the topic of domestic violence comes up, people often think of an abused spouse or partner. Though it's vitally important to keep those victims at the center of any discussion, there are other potential victims of this kind of abuse who may never experience actual assault. The children of victims or perpetrators of domestic violence are often traumatized by witnessing or overhearing these incidents of abuse. Two New Jersey state legislators want to ensure that these children's emotional well-being is addressed and that they receive counseling to handle the trauma.

The bill before state legislators was approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee. It would require counseling for any minor children who were exposed to domestic violence, to help manage any of the lasting emotional and psychological damage they may experience. This would apply to children who were physically present and saw abuse occur, or were close enough in proximity to overhear any violence.

Two assemblywomen are sponsoring the bill. Assemblywoman Angela McKnight says that last year there were almost 90,000 reported cases of domestic violence in New Jersey. Her hope is that this bill will facilitate healing for these children who may retain the horrific memories of the abuse. Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro worries that children who do not receive counseling may go on to become abusers themselves. She wants this bill to break the cycle of abuse.

Whatever happens with this legislation, the rights of victims of domestic violence must be preserved. Those who are in an abusive relationship with a romantic partner have options of which they may not be aware. An experienced family law attorney can discuss a person's available options, including filing a restraining order. It could be the first step to a brighter future.

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