Law Students Research the Impact of COVID-19 on Survivors of Domestic Violence in New Jersey
By Lori Borgen
Associate Clinical Professor and Director of the Center for Social Justice
During the Fall 2020 semester, faculty in the Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice (“CSJ”) worked closely with law students researching the impact of COVID-19 on survivors of domestic violence in New Jersey in conjunction with the non-profit organization Partners for Women and Justice (“Partners”). Professor Jessica Miles of the Family Law Clinic worked with Janet AuClair (3L, Class of 2021) on the project. In addition, Professor Kevin Kelly shared his expertise, and Veronica Chmiel (3L, Class of 2021) dedicated clinical time to support the research.
The Report issued by CSJ and Partners documents an increase in the frequency and severity of domestic violence during COVID-19 in New Jersey despite a robust response by the State government and social services agencies to combat the rise in intimate partner abuse. Although a longstanding problem, domestic violence now co-exists as a kind of shadow pandemic with COVID-19, and, like COVID-19, disproportionately affects low-income and marginalized individuals.
The Report examines the reasons for the recent rise in domestic violence and offers a number of recommendations for New Jersey lawmakers seeking to address domestic violence during the pandemic and beyond. These include:
- Allocate financial resources to address the long-term affordable housing needs of domestic violence survivors;
- Provide financial support to maximize access for survivors and their children to mental health treatment including services which meet their linguistically and culturally diverse needs;
- Increase transparency in reporting of domestic violence related data and examining data collection practices to ensure that timely review of comprehensive data will inform best practices and policy choices; and
- Pursue policies designed to address structural economic and racial inequalities which contribute substantially to the problem of domestic violence.
The work of the Family Law Clinic on the Report reflects and serves to supplement its provision of legal representation to indigent domestic violence survivors in a range of civil cases including those involving restraining orders and child custody.