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Know the Laws: Vermont

UPDATED March 29, 2017

Sexual Assault or Stalking Protective Orders

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This is a civil order that protects victims of stalking or sexual assault.

Basic info

back to topWhat is a sexual assault or stalking protective order?

A sexual assault or stalking protective order is a civil court order, which can protect you from someone who is not a family member or household member who has stalked or sexually assaulted you.  A household member is generally defined as someone who you live/d with, have/had a sexual relationship with, or someone you date/d, for any period of time.**  If a family member or household member has stalked or sexually assaulted you, you may be eligible for a relief from abuse order instead.   For more information, see the Relief from Abuse Orders section.

* VT ST T. 12 § 5133(a)
** VT ST T. 15 § 1101(2)

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back to topWhat is the definition of stalking in Vermont?

Stalking is when someone repeatedly (at least 2 times) follows, monitors, surveils or threatens you, makes threats about you, or interferes with your property.  These actions can be done directly or indirectly (through another person) and by using a device or through any other actions.*  The stalker must know or should know that his/her actions would reasonably cause you to:

  • fear for your safety or your family member's safety; or
  • suffer substantial emotional harm.  This "substantial emotional harm" can be shown by:
    • your fear of unlawful sexual conduct, unlawful restraint, bodily injury, or death; or
    • significant changes that you have made in your actions or routines, including:
      • moving from your home;
      • changing your daily routes to and from work even though it causes a serious disruption in your life; 
      • changing your job or your work schedule; or
      • losing a job or losing time from work.**

* VT ST T. 12 § 5131(1)(A)
** VT ST T. 12 § 5131(6)

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back to topWhat is the definition of sexual assault in Vermont?

For the purpose of getting this protective order, "sexual assault" is defined as when the abuser commits one of the following crimes against you - however, s/he does not have to be arrested for the crime and it does not have to be reported to the police for you to file for this protective order.  His/her actions, however, must match the description of one of the crimes below – click on each crime to read its definition:

* VT ST T. 12 § 5131(5)

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back to topWhat types of protective orders are available? How long do they last?

There are two types of protective orders - the temporary ex parte order and the final order.

Temporary ex parte order

You can file a complaint and affidavit (sworn statement) for a temporary protective order during regular court hours.  If the judge believes that the abuser/defendant stalked or sexually assaulted you, the judge can give you a temporary ex parte protective order without prior notice to the abuser/defendant.  A temporary protective order can state that the abuser has to stay away from you and/or your children and can include any other terms to protect the safety of you and/or your children.*

Final protective order against stalking or sexual assault
Every order will give a date (within the next 10 days), a time, and the place that the defendant can appear to petition the court to modify (change) or to dismiss the order.  At this court hearing, you will have to prove that the defendant stalked or sexually assaulted you to get the protective order continued.**  If the defendant was convicted criminally of sexual assault, the judge can issue a protection order without considering whether or not the defendant poses a risk of future harm.  However, if s/he was not convicted criminally of sexual assault, the judge must believe that s/he sexually assaulted you and that there is a danger of further harm to you.  The judge can consider the defendant's past behavior as relevant evidence of future harm but, in general, the judge cannot consider evidence about your reputation or your past sexual conduct (although there are exceptions).***

If necessary, the judge can add additional protections to the final order.  At this hearing, the abuser/defendant has the right to offer evidence to prove that s/he did not stalk or sexually assault you.  Both you and the abuser can offer witnesses, testimony, and other evidence to prove your case.  You may want to be represented by a lawyer at this hearing, especially if the abuser has one.  Go to our VT Finding a Lawyer page for free and paid legal referrals.

Final protective orders against stalking or sexual assault will be for a fixed period of time, which will be stated in the order.  The order can be extended, however.  For more information, see Can the order be changed or extended?

* VT ST T. 12 § 5134(a)
** VT ST T. 12 § 5134(b)
*** VT ST T. 12 § 5133(d)(1),(c)

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back to topHow can a sexual assault or stalking protective order help me?

A sexual assault or stalking protective order can order the abuser to stay away from you and/or your children.*  Under Vermont law, “stay away” means that the offender cannot:

  • be physically close to you; or
  • have nonphysical contact with you directly or through a third person (regardless of whether or not the third person knows about the order).**  Note: "Nonphysical contact" means s/he cannot contact you in writing, or through telephone calls, mail, e-mail, social media commentary or comments, or other electronic communication or fax.***

The judge can also order anything else that the judge believes is necessary to protect you and/or your children.*

* VT ST T. 12 § 5133(d)
** VT ST T. 12 § 5131(7)
*** VT ST T. 12 § 5131(3)

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Who is eligible

back to topWho can qualify for a sexual assault or stalking protective order?

If someone who is not a family member or household member has stalked or sexually assaulted you, you may be eligible to file for this order.  You can file on behalf of yourself and/or your minor children.  If the victim of stalking or sexual assault is a minor, s/he can file a complaint on his/her own if s/he is at least 16 years old.*  For the legal definition of sexual assault, see What is the definition of sexual assault in Vermont? and for the definition of stalking, see What is the definition of stalking in Vermont?

* VT ST T. 12 § 5133(a)

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back to topCan a minor file for an order?

Yes.  A minor victim can file a complaint on his/her own if s/he is at least 16 years old.  If s/he is younger than 16, his/her parent (or legal guardian) can file for him/her.*  

* VT ST T. 12 § 5133(a)

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back to topCan my past sexual history be used against me in court?

In general, the judge cannot consider evidence about your sexual reputation or your past sexual conduct (although there are exceptions).

Certain evidence of your past sexual conduct may be admitted if it affects your credibility (how believable you are) or if it is material (very relevant/important) to a fact that is an issue in your case.   In this case, the court may consider evidence of:

    1. Your past sexual conduct with the abuser;
    2. Specific instances of sexual conduct that resulted in pregnancy, disease, or the presence of semen; and/or
    3. Specific instances of your past false allegations of violations of one of the following crimes:
* VT ST T. 12 § 5133(c)

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How to get an order

back to topWhere do I file for a sexual assault or stalking protective order?

To file for a protective order, you go to the superior court in the county where you live.  If you have left your home in order to avoid being sexually assaulted or stalked, you can file the order in the county where you previously lived or in the current county you live in.*

* VT ST T. 12 § 5132

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back to topHow much does the protective order cost?

Nothing. There is no filing fee to get a protective order.*

* VT ST T. 12 § 5133(f)

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back to topWhat steps do I take to apply for an order?

These are the basic steps to getting an order:


Step #1: Go to superior court to file a complaint and affidavit.*

Step #2:
The judge reviews your paperwork and may question you. The judge may then grant a temporary ex parte order and a court date is set for a hearing on the final order.

Step #3:
The abuser must be notified of the complaint, temporary ex parte order and the hearing through a process called “service” prior to the hearing date.  You can use a law enforcement officer to personally serve (notify) the abuser - you cannot deliver the papers yourself.  The person serving the complaint must file a “return of service” with the court indicating the date, time, and place that the order was personally delivered to the abuser.  This is your proof that the abuser was properly served if s/he does not show up to court for the hearing.  If service cannot be made prior to the hearing date, you can request additional time to serve the abuser/defendant and the judge will determine how much time is needed to complete service.**

Step #4: After the abuser is served, you will have a hearing in court on the scheduled hearing date.  During this hearing, you must prove to the judge that the abuser has sexually assaulted or stalked you through witnesses, testimony, and other evidence.  The abuser/defendant has a right to offer evidence that s/he did not sexually assault or stalk you.  You may want to have an attorney represent you at the hearing.  Go to our VT Finding a Lawyer page for free and paid legal referrals.  If you have to represent yourself, you can find some helpful information on our Preparing for Court page.

The judge will determine if you will receive a final order.  If the judge believes that the defendant stalked you or the defendant has been criminally convicted of sexual assault, the judge can grant you an order against stalking or sexual assault without considering whether or not the defendant poses a risk of future harm.  However, if s/he was not convicted criminally of sexual assault, you must prove to the judge that s/he sexually assaulted you and that there is a danger of further harm to you.***

In either case, the judge may add additional protections to your order than the protections you had on your temporary ex parte order.****

Note: During the hearing, the judge can consider the defendant's past behavior as relevant evidence of future harm but, in general, the judge cannot consider evidence about your reputation or your past sexual conduct (although there are exceptions).  See Can my past sexual history be used against me in court? for more information.

* VT ST T. 12 § 5133(a),(h)
** VT ST T. 12 § 5135
*** VT ST T. 12 § 5133(c),(d)(1)
**** VT ST T. 12 § 5133(d)

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After the hearing

back to topWhat happens if the abuser violates the order?

If the abuser violates the order, you may wish to report it to the police by dialing 911 and/ or you may wish to file a contempt petition in court.  If the abuser violates a temporary or final order, s/he can be held in civil contempt and/ or prosecuted for criminal contempt.  S/he may be imprisoned, fined or both.*  Note: For criminal contempt, the maximum fine is $1,000 and the maximum prison time is 6 months.**

For other ways to stay safe, please see our Staying Safe page.

* VT ST T. 12 §§ 5134(d), 5133(j)
** VT ST T. 12 § 5138

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back to topCan the order be changed or extended?

Yes.  When your order expires, you can file a motion with the court to extend your order.  The judge can extend it for such additional time as the judge believes is necessary to protect you and/or your children.  There does not have to be another incident of stalking or sexual assault during the time you had the order to extend it.*

To change an order, you or the abuser can file a motion to modify (change) the order if there has been a substantial change in circumstance. The judge can change the order at any time.*

* VT ST T. 12 § 5133(e)

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