(TRENTON) – In light of the Me Too movement, the Assembly on Thursday approved legislation Assembly Democrats Louis Greenwald, Gabriela Mosquera and Angela McKnight sponsored to amend the sexual assault statute to better support victims of sexual assault.
The bill (A-2767) would amend certain provisions of the sexual assault statute, making it consistent with current law as established by relevant case law. Specifically, the bill would replace the term “physical force” in accordance with the New Jersey Supreme Court’s holding in State in Interest of M.T.S., 129 N.J. 422 (1992), which holds that the only requirement for a conviction under the sexual assault statute is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that there was sexual penetration and that it was accomplished without the victim’s consent.
“This is about consent and the meaning it should have between two people,” said Greenwald (D-Burlington/Camden). “We need to amend the law to ensure justice is served for victims. Without consent from both parties, it is sexual assault plain and simple.”
“Now more than ever, in the age of the Me Too movement,’ it is crucial that we strengthen the law to empower sexual assault victims to speak up and speak out,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “No should always mean no.”
“Reporting sexual assault can be extremely difficult for victims. Our laws should not contribute to that,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “This revision to the state’s sexual assault statute reinforces the importance of consent in these cases. Lack of consent is assault.”
The bill would also amend the statute to mirror the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling, as determined in State v. Olivio, 123 N.J. 550 (1991), that a person is “mentally defective”, if at the time of the sexual penetration, that person does not understand the sexual nature of the conduct and is incapable of understanding their right to refuse the sexual act.
The bill also would amend paragraph (3) of subsection a. of the statute to clarify that the phrase “aggravated assault on another” refers to a person other than the victim, and adds the crime of carjacking as an aggravating offense.
Lastly, the bill would replace gender-specific language with gender-neutral terms.
The bill was approved 79-0 by the Assembly and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.