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PO BOX 004
TRENTON, NJ 08625

Contact: Micah Rasmussen
609-777-2600

RELEASE: April 14, 2003

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McGreevey Signs Bill Prohibiting Discrimination Against Victims of Domestic Violence


(TRENTON)- Governor James E. McGreevey today signed into law legislation protecting victims of domestic violence from insurance discrimination. 

 

“Domestic violence is an especially destructive form of abuse because it wears a familiar face,” said McGreevey.  “It is a terror that has turned far too many homes into places where women - as well as men, children and seniors - silently suffer from both physical and emotional abuse.  Victims of domestic violence should not have to suffer anymore once they are free from their abusers.”

 

The legislation prohibits property or life insurance companies from engaging in discriminatory practices against victims of domestic violence.  Such practices include coverage denials, restricting or limiting policy benefits or adding premium differentials to policies.

 

State insurance regulators will be empowered to pursue fines and penalties against offending insurers.  Regulators can order violators to pay up to $5,000 in penalties for each violation.  They can also initiate state or federal court action to gain equitable relief from insurers that discriminate against victims of domestic violence.

"Insurers who discriminate against victims of domestic violence contribute to the misguided and unfortunate tradition of 'blaming the victim'," said Senator Barbara Buono.  "It is high time we adopt insurance policy in New Jersey that will protect domestic violence victims, not punish them."

 

"This law will ensure that domestic violence victims are not also victims of insurance discrimination," said Senator Joseph F. Vitale.   "Victims of domestic violence, like those who employ or shelter victims of domestic violence, do not deserve to be treated by insurance companies as if they have committed a wrong."

"Domestic violence victims who lived under the thumb of their abusers should not be further tormented and afraid of neglect by the insurance industry," said Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg "Victims need to be able to get out from under the cloud of fear so they can live healthy, normal lives.  An act of domestic violence occurs every eight minutes in New Jersey," said Weinberg.  "Insurance companies do not have the right to rub salt in the wounds of these victims by denying coverage on the basis of domestic violence."

"Victims of domestic violence should not have to fighting discriminatory insurance practices," said Assemblyman Joseph V. Doria (D-Hudson).  "The cycle of abuse should not be repeated by insurance practices that lack an ethical and a moral compass and compound the suffering of domestic violence victims.

 

Last year, Governor McGreevey signed an Executive Order creating the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board to study domestic violence homicides in order to address systemic changes. Also last year, Department of Human Services Commissioner Gwendolyn Harris convened a Domestic Violence Working Group to address the relationship between domestic violence and child abuse.

 

As Mayor of Woodbridge, McGreevey established the township’s Domestic Violence Response Team.  In 1996, the State selected Woodbridge’s Team to serve as a model of other towns in New Jersey which were planning on establishing similar units.

 
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