November 11, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ARE NOT CRIMINALS
Paterson, NJ Last week on November 2, NJRUA’s North Jersey Regional Director, Janet Duran, was arrested and detained for “willful nonsupport” by the Passaic County Family Court system. She was released Wednesday evening with the expectation that she will be on a payment plan to pay off child support arrears. Advocates with NJRUA find the conditions that have led up to her detention to be rooted in stigma against those who have traded sex and the broken justice system in Passaic county that treats victims of domestic violence as criminals.
The Passaic County Courts, and most recently Judge Sohail Mohammed, have granted the father of Ms. Duran’s children full custody with no visitation access since 2005. This decision was made despite the fact that he has been known to be physically abusive in both private and public settings. Ms. Duran has even filed a restraining order in the past because of the physical beatings she has received from him. What’s more, Ms. Duran’s perceived involvement for engaging in the sex trade was openly used against her during the case. Ultimately, the Passaic County Family Courts found a violent man to be more of a fit parent than a working mother providing for her children.
Sadly, Ms. Duran’s case is not in isolation as this has been an ongoing problem in the North Jersey family court systems. For the past six years, Strengthen Our Sisters has been organizing annual demonstrations outside the Passaic County Family Courts over the systemic problem of courts granting child custody to documented abusive men over fully capable mothers.
Ms. Duran has been expected to pay child support despite the fact that she has been on public assistance as a registered caretaker with the state for one of her parents, who is suffering from Alzheimers Disease and Dementia. It is shocking that the Passaic County Courts so willfully ignores her situation as caretaker, which takes the place of full time employment, and assumes she is fully capable of making payments. Judge Mohammed most recently issued a warrant in July for failure to make these payments, later enforced by Judge Justine Niccollai, which lead to Ms. Duran’s arrest last week.
Throughout this process, Ms. Duran has had to represent herself in court hearings. Services that are normally afforded to victims of domestic violence are unavailable to Ms. Duran because of the deep-rooted stigma against sex workers in New Jersey. Lawyers she has approached have openly told her “prostitutes have no rights.”
Violence is never excusable, regardless of one’s actual or perceived status as working in the sex trade. NJRUA urges anyone with the capacity to offer legal support to Ms. Duran to please contact us immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ms. Duran’s circumstances are a reminder to NJRUA’s commitment in addressing all forms of oppression against sex workers. Even with the removal of prostitution offenses, stigma and social marginalization of sex workers will continue to give systems of power justification to use other laws to further harass and take advantage of a disenfranchised community. Discrimination in all its forms must be addressed for the full empowerment of the community.