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September 23, 2009


Domestic Violence Handbook Provides Valuable Information to Help Victims
Understand the Legal System, Protect Their Safety and Regain Their Lives


Newark, NJ - Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. joined with the Rachel Coalition and Partners for Women and Justice to announce the printing of a Spanish language edition of "Surviving Domestic Violence: Your Legal Rights." The comprehensive handbook was first released in English in December 2007 and has proven to be a valuable community resource that helps domestic violence victims navigate the legal system and learn about the community resources that are available to assist them. The press conference on Wednesday, September 23rd was held to bring attention to the issues of domestic violence and to support community efforts which address both underlying causes and solutions for the victims.

"We commend the Rachel Coalition and Partners for Women and Justice for developing this important resource guide and for helping to raise awareness about domestic violence and the rights of victims. Publishing the book in Spanish will help another large segment of the population navigate through our legal system, learn their rights and empower them to take back their lives," DiVincenzo said. "Domestic violence is a crime that can affect any family or household, and can leave lasting emotional and physical scars. Partnerships like these help bring attention to the issue and prevent its occurrence," he added.

"Until you're in the midst of listening to victims share their experiences, you won't have a full understanding. This guide helps lessen that feeling and breaks down barriers by providing victims with the information they need," NJ Senator and Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said. "The Rachel Coalition has recognized a social concern and actively responded by creating this booklet to help those in need," she added.

"This guide is an important step in breaking down the barriers to our justice system and making it less intimidating for victims of domestic violence," Essex County First Assistant Prosecutor Carolyn Murray said. "Domestic violence cases are some of the most difficult. Keeping victims in physical and emotional place where they feel comfortable to move forward with prosecution is important. Cultural differences or language barriers can make this more daunting," she added.

"This is a good news-bad news event. It is good news that we have the ability to reach out to another part of our society to provide information to help those who need it. It is bad news that there are victims of domestic violence," New Jersey Bar Foundation Vice President Stuart M. Lederman said. "Publishing this book in Spanish will raise awareness about the devastating effects of domestic violence and give guidance to those who are looking to protect themselves," he added.

"Many domestic violence survivors are not informed of their rights. The handbook has important information and has already helped saved lives," Rachel Coalition Court Advocate Case Manager Natalia Martinez said. "This is a tremendous resource for the Latino community," she added.

Rachel Coalition produced the Spanish Edition of its user-friendly Legal Handbook with funds provided by the New Jersey State Bar Foundation through the IOLTA Fund of the Bar of NJ. "Surviving Domestic Violence: Your Legal Rights" serves as a critical tool that informs victims of their rights and has been adopted by the NJ Bar Association for its own use. The resource guide explains the different kinds of domestic violence and how children are affected, provides an overview of the "New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act," and outlines the process for obtaining a restraining order and how law enforcement can help. In addition, it gives advice to victims on how they can create a safety plan and lists a variety of resources and agencies where victims can turn for help. Copies of the handbook in both English and Spanish are currently available.

Rachel Coalition has collaborated with many partners to create community-based resources for victims of domestic violence and their families in Newark and Essex County. One such resource is The Court Advocacy Program, developed by the Rachel Coalition, at the request of the Essex County New Jersey Court.

The Court Advocacy Program, administered by the Rachel Coalition, places trained volunteers in the domestic violence waiting area at Essex County Family Court to provide emotional support, explain how a restraining order can help victims and their children, and explain basic court procedures. Between July 2008 and June 2009, over 2,000 Essex residents, including 432 victims from Newark, were helped by Rachel Court Advocates. In the first six months of 2009, Rachel Coalition and Partners for Women and Justice collaborated to provide more than 60 Essex County domestic violence victims with pro bono legal representation and another 28 with extensive advice and counsel. In addition, 130 Essex County residents received case management services, and 16 Essex County men attended the batterer's group counseling sessions from Rachel Coalition.

The Rachel Coalition is a partnership of nine northern New Jersey organizations that provide services and support to victims of domestic violence, including a 24-hour crisis response line (973-740-1233), emergency housing with kosher provisions, individual and group counseling, access to legal and medical assistance and education and outreach programs. Rachel Coalition partners include Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, National Council of Jewish Women - Essex County Section, National Council of Jewish Women - West Morris Section, Women's Department of the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey, MetroWest Rabbinic Cabinet, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Hadassah - Northern New Jersey Region, Jewish Women International - North Atlantic Region, and JCC MetroWest.

Partners for Women and Justice empowers low-income and abused women to build safe and secure futures for themselves and their children by providing equal access to justice. It offers quality legal assistance in domestic violence and family law matters and guidance to promote financial competence and independence.