Legal protections will be available to more victims of sexual assault under legislation sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain, which was today signed into law by the governor. The new law allows courts to make civil protection orders permanent, instead of the current maximum of two years, and reduces burdens to renew existing orders.
“More than 13,000 women and men accessed critically important resources available to victims of sexual assault in Washington last year, with many more instances going unreported,” said Fain, of Auburn. “This law will help strengthen protections for many of them and encourage countless others to come out of the shadows to receive the support and protection they need and deserve.”
Sexual assault protection orders are available for victims of sexual assault who do not qualify for a domestic violence protection order. Once an order is in place the respondent is prohibited from contact with the victim and from certain places along with other relief determined by the court.
Protection orders are obtained through civil courts with testimony from the victim, but had been limited to a maximum of two years. That forced a victim to relive the abuse in court every two years to keep protections in place. The legislation allows protection orders to be permanent, bringing them in-line with other orders for domestic violence, stalking and harassment.
Violation of a protection order results in criminal charges against the attacker.
In 2015, Washington state programs served approximately 13,000 victims of sexual assault, with roughly 5,000 in King County.