There are some legal proposals that never go away, although they may be forgotten for years at a time. One issue that comes up now and again is the idea of a domestic violence registry, similar to the sex offenders registry that came about as a result of Megan's Law. It sounds great in theory, especially nowadays where so many people meet online. While we can't do anything about catfishers, potential victims may be able to avoid meeting abusers through a simple check on an online database. Unfortunately, it's not that simple when you look beyond the immediate advantages.
For starters, most victims don't take action against an offender beyond requesting a restraining order. That means no criminal charges, hence no conviction. The sex offender's registry is legally and morally fair because these are people who have been convicted through a criminal justice proceeding. Of course, that doesn't mean someone isn't a dangerous just because he or she hasn't been convicted. But many incidents of domestic violence are isolated incidents, usually between two people who are toxic for each other. Many of them don't involve physical, or even prolonged mental/ emotional violence. In that case, should that person be on a public registry that anyone can access? Is it even legal, considering that other civil actions in a person's life aren't posted on a database for all the world to see? For example, it's not as if we have a public registry for white collar criminals such as Ponzi schemers, although plenty of defrauded victims would be in favor of one.
The question wouldn't be so important if there weren't some very serious consequences to being labeled a “domestic abuser”. Job loss is a definite possibility depending on one's profession; loss of custody or parenting time is another. That's why the New Jersey courts allow defendants to request the lifting of final restraining orders if there has been no contact between themselves and the victim for a number of years. That doesn't mean it will be lifted, but at least they have the right to be heard in a court of law. Would that right be taken away, or maybe not be of any relevance if a domestic violence registry was established?
This is in no way meant to take away from the serious nature of domestic violence, or a victim's right to receive protection under the law. But domestic violence has always been looked at as a personal issue first, and a criminal issue, second. The purpose of doing so is to respect the victim's feelings, which may be to keep the incident as private as possible. Having a public registry could compromise the victim's rights, as well as the abuser's. In short, domestic violence is an incredibly complex legal and moral issue that requires case-by-case examination, rather than concrete rules and punishments. That's why a public registry for domestic violence offenders is unlikely to materialize, neither in New Jersey nor in any other state.