As it stands currently, sexual assault protection orders expire after two years (RCW 7.90.120). This has long been opposed by advocates for sexual assault victims. Victim advocates argue that when victims are forced to petition repeatedly for these protection orders, it intensifies their already painful experiences and forces them to relive trauma.
To petition for a sexual assault protection order one must provide very detailed and graphic information, and the requirement for renewal after two years has been incredibly challenging for many victims. The Seattle Times article quotes Andrea Piper-Wentland, executive of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs. “Victims have repeatedly shared with us how difficult obtaining an order is. They must relive the trauma of going back into the court, the experience of seeing their perpetrator, as well as making accommodations they need in their life for taking time off work, school.”
The Seattle Times describes that new proposed legislation (Senate Bill 6151 & House Bill 2033) would give judges the option of making these orders permanent. The legislation applies to civil sexual assault protection orders and does not impact orders issued in criminal cases. The court has the ability to make domestic violence protection orders permanent, relieving victims from the burden of revisiting the issue and facing the person they are seeking protection from after a specified period of time. This new legislation would finally do the same for sexual assault victims. The legislation has reportedly passed the Senate and is waiting for a vote on the House floor.
The following information describes how sexual assault protection orders are obtained, as well as their current functionality in Washington State. Order duration may be impacted by the pending legislation. Please see our prior blog posting for additional information about protection orders.
*Sexual Assault Protection Order: This is a civil or criminal court order issued in the context of pending criminal action, or as a condition of sentence. (RCW 7.90)
- Who may obtain the order:
- A person who does not qualify for a Domestic Violence Protection order and is a victim of non-consensual sexual conduct or penetration, including a single incident.
- Minors under age 16 must seek the order through a parent or guardian.
- The court may issue an order on behalf of victims of sex offenses when criminal charges are filed.
- Consequences if order is knowingly violated:
- Mandatory arrest; Possible criminal charges or contempt; Class C felony if assault or reckless endangerment, otherwise Gross Misdemeanor
- Duration of order:
- Temporary order may be filed for up to 14 days; Court will designate the length of the order (up to two years for civil, potentially longer for criminal)
If you are seeking protection or find yourself falsely accused of actions by a party seeking an order against you, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible. A knowledgeable, skilled attorney will help you to understand your rights and options and will assist you in planning your next course of action. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.