Expungement Information Session

City of Elizabeth Hosts Expungement Information Session – August 11

The City of Elizabeth will host an Expungement Information Session on Thursday, August 11 from 6pm to 8pm at the Elizabeth Public Library, 11 South Broad Street. The purpose of the meeting is to explain changes to the expungement of criminal records, based on legislation that took effect in April, 2016, following a two-year effort.

Advocates and attorneys representing such groups as Legal Services of New Jersey, Community Health Law Project and Make the Road New Jersey will be present to answer questions.

The information session coincides with the recent launching of a Facebook page,
City of Elizabeth Reentry Program. The site already provides a number of links on the expungement process. Persons interested in volunteering to assist at the meeting – greeters, registration – may call Deshawn Pierce at 908-820-4052.

Related links on expungement include:

Winter Termination Program Takes Effect Today

The Winter Termination Program – sometimes known as the “winter moratorium” – began today, November 15. It is a regulation issued by the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and prohibits utility companies from shutting off electric or gas service to certain low income customers.

The following is part of a Customer’s Bill or Rights found on the BPU website. It reads as follows: “Winter Termination Program – If you are an elderly or low income customer having financial problems paying your bill you should request the company to enroll you in a budget plan in accordance with your ability to pay. You are required to make good faith payments of all reasonable bills for service and in return are assured of the right to have gas and electric utilities service from November 15, to March 15 without fear of termination of such service.”

Customers who receive any of the following public benefit programs are protected against utility shutoffs: Lifeline, PAAD, LIHEAP, USF, TANF, GA, SSI, or persons unable to pay their bill due to circumstances beyond their control. A person can request to be placed under “WTP protection” if they are in any of these categories by contacting their utility company. To take advantage of the WTP a customer should make “good faith” payments, enroll in an affordable payment plan, and apply for energy assistance benefits.

Additional information is available on the New Jersey Community Resources website on the following web pages: Winter Termination Program, NJ Energy Assistance Programs, and Avoiding NJ Utility Shutoffs.

Households who require the intervention from others should contact the Board’s Division of Customer Assistance at 800-624-0241, or Legal Services of New Jersey at 888-LSNJ-LAW (888-576-5529).

Victim Recounts 20 Years of Domestic Violence

A few weeks ago I started to compile contact numbers of agencies that help families cope with domestic violence issues. On a weekend getaway to Cape May I read a newspaper article in the Cape May County Herald by Deborah McGuire titled “Domestic Violence Victim Counsels Those in Abusive Relationships.” Below you will find the full text of the newsarticle with permission of the publisher. It is also viewable online.

Victim Recounts 20 Years of Domestic Violence written 9/19/11 by Deborah McGuire. Copyright by Seawave Corp. Used with permission from the publisher.

COURT HOUSE — Stand in line in the supermarket with four women; look at a group of four women talking at work; sit behind four women at a PTA meeting. Statistically speaking, one of them is, has been, or will be, a victim of domestic violence.

Those statistics alone are sobering. Add to that the effect of domestic violence on children. According to the 2009 Domestic Violence in NJ Report, “Children were involved or present during thirty-one percent of all domestic violence offenses…specifically, 4 percent were involved and 27 percent were present.”

In 2009, there were 73,709 domestic violence offenses reported to the police, a 4 percent increase to the 70,613 reported the previous year. With almost 8,000 calls, Cape May County was second only to Gloucester County in the number of domestic violence hotline calls.

The Coalition Against Rape and Domestic Violence (CARA) has been answering the call when it comes to domestic violence in the county. The organization will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012. Juanita Battle, CSW, DVS, CARA’s supervisor of services, has been with CARA since its opening in 1982. Battle spoke with the Herald about domestic violence and its effect on the county women, children and men who experience it.

“I want women to hear it. I want women to know that I feel their pain,” said Battle. She explained how she was a victim of domestic violence for almost 20 years. Her tale is a harrowing one of terror, a mother’s love and the will to survive.

Married in 1961 at the age of 18, she said that the abuse began when she and her then-husband were dating. “I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t tell my girlfriends” she said, “I thought he loved me – he didn’t want anyone else to look at me.” She recalled how he would shove her and tell “You were supposed to be here at…”

Pregnant when they married, “I thought the sun rose over him and thought that he loved me,” she said. Once married, the violence escalated. “He smacked me around and shoved me around while I was pregnant.”

The newly married Battle said that it took her a few years to figure out that her husband, an alcoholic, “was a very mean person. He was an angry, prejudiced man.”

“He was an entirely different person when he was sober,” she shared. “That’s the person that I loved.”

Her husband beat her on a fairly regular basis; once, fracturing her jaw.

Still, Battle stayed. Her boundary, she said, was her children.

“Don’t hit my kid, was my boundary. My limit was ‘You can kill me now, but don’t hit my kid.’”

On one occasion, when her husband tried to beat her son, Battle struck back. “He tried his best to kill me,” she said, “And he tried to choke me – so I hit him back. He was going to beat my son. I could see rage in him. My son was petrified. I told my son to run to the neighbor’s across the street.”

Interestingly, Battle said that her husband was the son of an abusive alcoholic father. “He would grab his father and say, ‘You better not hit my mom,’ yet he hit his own wife.”

Over the course of her marriage Battle did muster up the strength to take her children and leave the abuse. And every time she did, she’d go back. “I left for a couple of months,” she said. “I went to my aunt’s. But he came for me and promised me never to do it again.”

Upon her return, the beatings were worse.

Battle said that when she counsels women who are returning to their abusers to think long and think hard.

“I always tell girls if you decide to go back and you know he hasn’t gotten any professional help, it could be worse.” She said that the ambiguity in the abusers mind of what happened while the woman was out of the house adds to the abuse.

One episode of abuse stands out in Battle’s mind. She told of how she was pregnant with twins and her husband was drunk.

“He was over at his father’s house drinking and they concocted a story that the babies weren’t his.” Her husband beat her and pushed her down stairs, resulting in one of the babies being born neurologically impaired.

In 1978, with five sons and a daughter, Battle started to battle back.

“I told myself I didn’t like myself. I didn’t even know who ‘self’ was. To do what? Stay in this house? It’s not a home. I didn’t want my kids to think it was okay (to be beaten).”

So Battle developed a plan.

”I thought about my paperwork, my kids birth certificates and things like that.”

She told one person – a girlfriend, of what was going on. “I was scared about leaving,” she said. “Every day she would see me and say, ‘I don’t see bruises on you, so it must have been a good night.’”

One day, however, Battle knew that she had reached the end. She told in chilling detail how she and her husband had argued and fought the night before she made her run for it.

”He had been drinking. I got up, got the kids off to school, got ready for work. As I was getting ready for work he told me I wasn’t going to work and he wasn’t going to work, either – that I should call his work.”

Battle knew that if she didn’t do something, she was going to spend the day being beaten, or worse.

“I knew then that I wasn’t going to do it anymore. He went to the liquor store and I drove to Dorothy’s (her girlfriend). She was hanging clothes,” said Battle. “She looked at me coming out of the car and she said, ‘You know what to do.’”

“I drove to the Glassboro Police Department and told them I was leaving and I wanted my kids. I told them he had beaten me. They told me there was a shelter in Atlantic County and they asked me if I wanted to go there.”

They also told Battle that she needed to move fast if she wanted her kids, “They told me that the kids were his, too, and if he got to them first he could keep them.”

“I asked the police to come home with me so I could get some clothes for the kids.”

While she and the police were at the house her husband pulled up.

”Why are the police here,” he asked. “I couldn’t even look at him,” said Battle.

While the police were present, her husband tried to grab her as she went into the house. ”I stopped the door with my foot,” she said. “The police pushed him down and handcuffed him. I took a few things with me.”

Driving like a madwoman Battle was able to get to four of the schools to collect five of her children. But her husband got to the intermediate school first and took one child with him.

“I didn’t know what to do,” said Battle, “to go back because of (the remaining child)? But I left. I said I would go to court to get (my child).”

“I didn’t know where I was going,” recalled Battle. “The kids were crying, I was crying. I drove north on the Parkway to the last exit.”

And there, a toll taker played angel to her. “The lady in the toll both asked me if I was okay,” she said. “And I said ‘no.’ The toll taker said that surely there was a reason I had come that way.” While sitting at the toll booth, able to regain a modicum of her composure, Battle said to herself, “My brother!”

Battle’s brother, a Baptist minister, lived in Morristown.

“The toll taker let me turn around,” said Battle, and I showed up at my brother’s church. My brother was playing the organ and he said, ‘Sis.” He knew. I didn’t have to say anything.”

Battle smiles as she recalls how she and six children hunkered down in her brother’s bachelor pad.

About a week or so later after Battle left her abusive marriage, her husband contacted Battle’s aunt. It seemed that caring for the child was putting a cramp in his lifestyle. Her husband took the child to her aunt’s house, where Battle picked him up. The mother and her children were whole again.

“1978 was the best year of my life,” said Battle when asked about leaving her husband. “I had my kids; I got a nice apartment, and a job.”

“I divorced him right away,” said Battle. “I paid for the divorce.” Once divorced, she never contacted him again. Since their divorce, her ex-husband passed away.

Battle tells her story because she wants women who are in a similar situation to know that there is a way out. There is help for them. There is support.

“I want her to know that there is a safe place for her to go,” said Battle. “There is a place she can go to, to be safe.”

Battle talked of the need for women in abusive relationships to have phones. Often, she said, the woman will not have access to a car or to a phone, so the abuse can exert total control over her.

Often, women stay in abusive situations because of the fear of losing their children. Not so, said Battle.

”Oh, honey, they are your kids. Take your kids,” she said.

Women, too, are sometimes afraid of signing charges against their abusers.

“They don’t have to sign charges,” said Battle. “They and their children can get out. They will be taken to a safe place.”

Women unable to find alternate housing on their own may access CARA’s shelter.

“There is a shelter,” said Battle. “A home-like environment. It’s not institutionalized at all. It looks like a home, with a living room, kitchen, bedroom and regular bathrooms. A woman can stay 30 days and we can work with her to find counseling and housing.”

In sharing her story, Battle hopes to let women know that there is an alternative out there. That as difficult as it seems, a better life does await them.

“It is possible for women to leave, survive and thrive,” she said. “If they just take the chance and leave their abuser.”

And for those not ready to leave? “I urge them to tell someone. It opens it up in case something bad happens. By telling, the other person may be able to guide them.”

Women, men, and children who are in need of help can contact CARA at 609-522-6489 or their local police at 911.

Copyright 2011 by Seawave Corp. Used with permission.

There are organizations across the state to help women who are confronted with domestic violence. Statewide organizations include the
New Jersey Coalition For Battered Women and New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

A 71 page guide was recently published by Legal Services of New Jersey. It is titled Domestic Violence: A Guide to the Legal Rights of Domestic Violence Victims in New Jersey. For help call the New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-572-SAFE (7233).

Links to many of the organizations listed below are included on this site’s community resources page.
The following organizations provide women with either emergency shelter, counseling, and/or have telephone hotlines:
Atlantic County
Atlantic County Women’s Center http://www.acwc.org/

Bergen County
Alternatives To Domestic Violence http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/adv/

Shelter Our Sisters http://www.shelteroursisters.org/

Burlington County
Providence House Domestic Violence Services http://www.catholiccharitiestrenton.org/index.php?page=Providence-House-Domestic-Violence-Services

Camden County
Camden County Women’s Center http://www.camdencountywomenscenter.org/

SERV of Camden County http://www.centerffs.org/programs/serv-domestic-violence-services

Cape May County
C.A.R.A. (Coalition Against Rape and Abuse) http://www.cara-cmc.org/

Cumberland County
SERV of Cumberland County http://www.centerffs.org/programs/serv-domestic-violence-services

Essex County
Partners For Women and Justice http://www.pfwj.org/

Babyland Family Violence Program http://www.babylandfamilyservices.org/Services.html

Rachel Coalition https://www.rachelcoalition.org/

The Safe House http://www.njcbw.org/gethelp_NJservices.html#essex

Gloucester County
SERV of Gloucester County http://www.centerffs.org/programs/serv-domestic-violence-services

Hudson County
WomenRising http://www.womenrising.org/

Hunterdon County
SAFE in Hunterdon http://www.safeinhunterdon.org/

Mercer County
Womanspace http://www.womanspace.org/

Middlesex County
Women Aware http://womenaware.net/

Women Helping Women http://www.whwnj.com/

Rutgers Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance http://sexualassault.rutgers.edu/

Manavi http://www.manavi.org/

Monmouth County
180 Turning Lives Around http://www.180nj.org/

Morris County
Jersey Battered Women’s Service http://www.jbws.org/

Rachel Coalition https://www.rachelcoalition.org/

Ocean County
Providence House Domestic Violence Services http://www.catholiccharitiestrenton.org/index.php?page=Providence-House-Domestic-Violence-Services

Passaic County
Passaic County Women’s Center http://www.njaconline.org/14.html

Project S.A.R.A.H. http://projectsarah.org/

Strengthen Our Sisters http://www.sosdv.org/

Wafa House http://www.wafahouse.org/

Salem County
Salem County Women’s Services http://scwsonline.org/index.php

Somerset County
Women’s Health and Counseling Center http://www.womenandhealth.org/

Resource Center of Somerset http://www.resourcecenterofsomerset.org/

Sussex County
Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Intervention Services (DASI) http://www.dasi.org/

Union County
Project Protect http://www.ywcaeuc.org/domestic-violence/

Warren County
Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Warren County http://www.besafewc.org/index.php

Also, see New Jersey MentalHealthCares Under Directory Of Services http://www.njmentalhealthcares.org/

Legal Services To Release Poverty Benchmarks Report – March 22, 2011

Date: Tuesday March 22, 2011
Time: 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Place: New Jersey State Museum Auditorium, 205 W. State St, Trenton, NJ

Legal Services of New Jersey invites you to the public release of Poverty Benchmarks 2011: Assessing New Jersey’s Progress in Combating Poverty —the fifth annual report in the Poverty Benchmarks series prepared by LSNJ’s Poverty Research Institute.

Attendees will hear about recent trends revealed by data related to poverty and income inadequacy in New Jersey, as well as implications for state action to address existing and anticipated challenges. The release will feature presentation of report highlights, followed by panel discussions and Q&A. More details about the event, including directions and parking information, will be sent next week. Feel free to share the attached Poverty Benchmarks 2011 flyer with other interested parties.

The Poverty Benchmarks Project is an on-going data collection effort that aims to increase understanding of poverty in New Jersey as a foundation for more effective public response to the reality of poverty and its consequences. This report is the fifth in the annual series and updates key poverty trends and attendant policy implications.

Please RSVP by e-mail: PRI@lsnj.org. For more information contact Zane Kratzer (x8502) or Shivi Prasad (x8218) at (732) 572-9100.

Source: recent email from LSNJ

P.S. LSNJ has since released online Poverty Benchmarks 2011: Assessing New Jersey’s Progress in Combating Poverty. Those interested in reading some of the 172 page report can view it online at http://www.lsnj.org/PDFs/budget/Benchmarks2011.pdf .