Service Updates and Safety Planning during COVID-19 Public Health Crisis
Please know that as isolating as the COVID-19 public health crisis may be, you are not alone. There is help out there. We have put together resources that will be able to assist in times of crisis.
Essex County Family Justice Center: 973-230-7229 ext. 200
Advocates will be answering calls between 8:30am and 4:30pm, Monday-Friday. Advocates will provide safety planning and answer questions regarding accessing services. We are in constant communication with our onsite partner staff who are also providing remote civil legal services, behavioral health services, shelter advocacy and criminal justice advocacy
If you live in Essex County and are a victim of domestic violence in need of shelter, please call the Safe House at 973-759-2154
The Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline is available at 1-800-572-SAFE (7233), and can help direct survivors to the resources closest to them.
Please visit the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV) website, for more information, tips and resources https://njcedv.org/
The National Domestic Violence Hotline’s Deaf Videophone is available to assist Deaf survivors at 1-855-812-1001. You can also chat or text with an advocate by going to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, click on “Chat Now”; or text LOVEIS to 22522.
If you or someone you know is in need of shelter or resources and lives outside of New Jersey, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can connect you with your local domestic violence agency by calling 1-800-799-7233.
Domestic Violence shelters are available. However, due to COVID-19 there may be restrictions and therefore try to consider alternatives such as staying with family or friends, or staying in motels/hotels.
Obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) (updated 8/12/20)
Información actualizada sobre cómo obtener Ordenes de Restricción Temporal (TRO’s)
Promotoria do condado de Essex Nova Jersey Vítimas de Violência Doméstica Informações atualizadas sobre como obter uma Ordem de Restrição Temporária (TRO).
Effective August 3, 2020, victims of domestic violence can contact the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Division by telephone during normal court hours to apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO).
In Essex County, victims may call 973-776-9300 x57210 Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm. Victims will be provided with an opportunity to leave their name, phone number, and the safest time for the court to contact the plaintiff (applicant) during Superior Court hours.
If you are a victim, you can apply telephonically for a TRO in the county where you live, where the defendant lives, where the incident took place, or where you are seeking shelter.
After normal business hours, victims may contact their local police department where local law enforcement will assist them in filing an application for a temporary restraining order. Those applicants will be heard by a municipal court judge.
In addition, if law enforcement issues a complaint/summons to a domestic violence defendant or contacts Municipal Court to request a complaint/warrant, victims can apply for a TRO at the same time with the assistance of law enforcement, even if Superior Court is open. The TRO applications that are submitted with a complaint-warrant or a complaint-summons should be heard by a municipal court judge even during Superior Court hours.
As of March 18, 2020 and until further notice, there are no in-person Superior Court proceedings (except for extremely limited emergent matters and certain ongoing trials). As many matters as possible (including case management conferences, motions, and hearings) will be handled by telephone or video conference. Please contact the court at https://www.njcourts.gov/courts/family/familyvicinage.html?lang=eng#essex
Recent developments regarding inmate release
On March 23, 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court granted an order to commute or suspend county jail sentences for those who are serving as a condition of probation for an indictable offense or due to a municipal court convictions. We are concerned as to how this may impact victims of domestic violence who may have remained safe and protected from their partner’s abuse because they have been in jail.
Victims who wish to be informed of an inmate’s release are urged to register here https://vinelink.vineapps.com/search to be notified. For further assistance, please call Essex County Family Justice Center at 973-230-7229.
Developing a Safety Plan for Victims of Domestic Violence in Times of a Public Health Crisis
While we are in a public health crisis and the country is in a state of emergency, things change constantly and we are likely to be asked to stay home. That's a negative factor that can increase incidents of domestic violence or make it difficult to leave an abusive relationship. Also abusers can use this national health concern as a tool to exert control and power over their victims.
Since the country is in crisis and the health of the public is in danger, we need to build a safety plan that takes into account these factors.
Safety in the Home
● Try to maintain contact with a person you trust and establish a keyword with her/him, only for emergency situations.
● Have 911 as a contact that you can quickly access.
● Discuss a safety plan with your children if they are with you and think about who can take care of them if you need to leave for a period of time.
● Try to communicate with your support system by giving them an update on your situation when the abuser isn’t around.
● Park your car with the front facing the street, in case you need to escape, it will be easier.
Safety during an explosive incident
● Trust your judgment or intuition.
● Try to stay in an area where you have access to an exit and know your escape routes.
● Stay away from the bathroom, kitchen or where weapons may be kept.
● Try to keep as much distance between you and the abuser as possible.
● In a violent incident: protect your head and neck as best you can. If you were strangled/choked or hit your head and can’t go to the hospital, check your body and pay attention to changes in breathing, vision or hearing, as well as other symptoms like dizziness, frequent headaches, urination and defecation. If these symptoms persist or get worse, it is important for you to get medical help.
● If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
● Do not wear long scarves or jewelry around your neck in the event your partner tries to strangle you.
● If you are pregnant pay even more attention to your health and symptoms you may be experiencing.
● Try to keep firearms, sharp objects such as knives and other weapons locked away.
Related with COVID-19
● Keep your social security card, identification, and health insurance in a safe place to the best of your ability.
● Inform yourself about the symptoms of COVID-19, and check regularly if you or those you live with have these symptoms: cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue or tiredness, difficulty breathing. If your partner is experiencing these symptoms, be aware that you might be exposed as well.
● The CDC recommends that If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.
● It is encouraged that you disclose any abuse or your fears of safety to your doctor or healthcare provider. You can also use this time to call the domestic violence hotline to safety plan so you can isolate and recover from the virus safely away from your abuser.
● Keep the COVID-19 Hotline handy on you and make sure that your partner is not physically around before making a call at 1-800-962-1253.
● Keep disinfectant and hand sanitizer with you in a safe place and establish a daily routine of self-care and care for your children.
● Be aware of all the actions that medical professionals are saying to prevent infection, such as frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact with sick people, disinfecting your home, and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
● Essex County COVID-19 testing site is available by appointment by visiting https://essexcovid.org/
Safety with Technology
● Delete any information you have on your cell phone that can be suspicious to your abuser.
● Keep your cell phone in a safe place and at all times, this is your best form of communication.
Safety When Preparing to Leave
● Please note that public transportation may have changed. If you have an opportunity, check online or with a friend for bus times and routes and taxi services.
● Find out what agencies are being impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak in your area - find out if they are open, operating under modified schedules, offering limited services, etc.
● Identify any neighbors that can help you.
● Call hotline numbers or domestic violence programs to find out how the courts and police departments can help. In an emergency call 911 - situations can change very quickly.
● Plan a safe place that you can go to: a family member/friend’s house or shelter.
● Identify a time or day that you can leave without your abuser knowing.
● Remember to gather identifying documents (birth certificates, social security cards, immigration paperwork, drivers licenses) for yourself and any children.
After Leaving the Relationship
● Try to maintain social connections online or over the phone with people who can support you.
● Keep the restraining order with you at all times. Tell family members, friends or neighbors that you have it.
● Call your local police department to report and request a response to any violations.
● Call Essex County Family Justice Center for help with safety planning and support. 973-230-7229
● Call hotlines or domestic violence programs because they may have remote counseling at this time.
● With the COVID-19 outbreak, this time can feel very uncertain and isolating. Taking the time for your health and well-being may help you to feel more safe and secure.
Crisis Text Line: text “NJ” to 741741
Family Helpline: 1-800-843-5437
Mental Health Hotline: 866-202-4357
Essex County Family Justice Center 973-230-7229
The following are safety planning tips for victims of domestic violence, however due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many do not apply at this time. Please call 973-230-7229 for current strategies.
Call 911 if you or your children are in danger or have been hurt by your partner.
Teach your children to use the telephone to call the police and go to a safe place during a violent incident.
Identify a safe place to go in case of an emergency, such as your local police precinct.
Lock all the windows and doors at night and when you leave your home.
Inform your children’s school/daycare about who has permission to pick them up and provide administrators with copies of restraining orders or custody orders.
Request to have your telephone number changed to an unlisted number.
Keep your home address confidential and, if possible, do not tell the abuser where you live. If you have a visitation arrangement, try to have a family member help with pick up and meet at a neutral location.
Avoid going out alone.
Change your route to and from work often.
If possible, have someone screen your calls at work, request that your office telephone number and email address be changed, and vary your schedule.
In case you need to leave quickly, you should gather important documents:
Passports/Green cards/Work Permits
Social Security cards/Birth Certificates
Bank account details/House deed/Lease
Order of protection
Children’s immunization/school records
Address book and a calling card
Pack a bag with money, extra keys, clothes, medicine, and important documents – leave it in a safe place or with someone you trust.
-- Information adapted from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Internet and Computer Safety
If you think your activities (online and offline) are being monitored, you are probably right. People who are abusive often want to know their victim’s every move and interaction. If this is something you’re experiencing, it’s important to think through how they might be tracking your online activity. These tips can help you think through how to access information online more safely:
Computers, mobile devices, and online accounts store a lot of private information about what you view online – the websites you visit (like this one), the things you search for, the emails and instant messages you send, the online videos you watch, the things you post on social media, the online phone or IP-TTY calls you make, your online banking and purchasing, and many others.
If your mobile device or computer are easily accessible to the abuser, be careful how you use it. You may want to keep using those devices for activities that won’t trigger violence – like looking up the weather – and find safe devices (like a public computer at the library) to look up information about how to get help.
If the person who is abusive has access to your online accounts (social media, email, phone bill, etc), or has had access to them in the past, it is often helpful to update the usernames and passwords for those accounts from a safer device.
You can also set up a new email address that they aren’t aware of, and connect your online accounts to it (rather than the old email address they know). It can be helpful to make the new address something that is more anonymous, instead of using your actual name or a handle you are already known by.
Keep in mind, if you think you are being monitored, it might be dangerous to suddenly stop your online activity or stop them from accessing your accounts. You may want to keep using those devices or accounts for activities that won’t trigger violence – and find safer devices (like a public computer at the library) and accounts to look up information about how to get help, or to communicate with people privately.
Email, instant messaging and text messaging with domestic violence agencies leaves a detailed digital trail of your communication, and can increase the risk that your abuser will know not only that you communicated, but the details of what you communicated. When possible, it’s best to call a hotline. If you use email, instant messaging, or text messaging, try to do so on a device and account that the abuser doesn’t know about or have access to, and remember to erase any messages you don’t want the abusive partner to see.
-Information from National Network to End Domestic Violence, NNEDV.org/
Anonymous and confidential help is available 24/7 by calling the following hotlines:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (7233)
Rachel Coalition: 973-740-1233
Rape Crisis Hotline: 877-733-CARE (2273)
Safe House: 973-759-2154