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Know the Laws: Washington

UPDATED August 10, 2017

Sexual Assault Protection Orders

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A sexual assault protection order provides protection from someone who has sexually assaulted you.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of sexual assault in Washington?

For the purpose of getting a sexual assault protection order, the abuser must have committed one of two crimes against you: “nonconsensual sexual conduct” or “nonconsensual sexual penetration.”

Nonconsensual” means that you did not freely agree to the sexual conduct or penetration.*  If you “agreed” to the sexual contact because you were being threatened with physical harm, for example, that would not be considered that you “freely agreed” to the contact.

Sexual conduct is when the offender:

  • touches or fondles your genitals, anus, or breasts, including through clothing;
  • displays his/her genitals, anus, or breasts for the purposes of arousal or sexual gratification;
  • forces you to touch his/her genitals, anus, or breasts;
  • forces you to touch another person's genitals, anus, or breasts;
  • forces you to display your genitals, anus, or breasts for the purpose of sexual gratification;
  • touches the body (clothed or unclothed) of a child under the age of thirteen for the purposes of sexual gratification or arousal; or
  • forces a child under the age of thirteen to touch or fondle (including through clothing) his/her genitals, anus, or breasts.**

Sexual penetration is:

  • any contact between the sex organ or anus of one person by
    • an object, or
    • the sex organ, mouth or anus of another person; or
  • any intrusion into the sex organ or anus of one person by
    • any part of the body of another person, or
    • any animal, or
    • any object.***

Note: There does not have to be semen found to prove sexual penetration.***

* R.C.W. § 7.90.010(1)
** R.C.W. § 7.90.010(4)(a)-(f)
*** R.C.W. § 7.90.010(5)

 

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back to topWhat is a sexual assault protection order?

If you have been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration by someone you are/were not in an intimate relationship with and who is not your family or household member, you may be eligible to file for a sexual assault protection order.*  If you were sexually assaulted by a current/former intimate partner or family/household member, then you may qualify for a domestic violence order for protection.  See Domestic Violence Orders for Protection for more information.

A sexual assault protection order is a paper that is signed by a judge and can order the offender to have no contact with you, leave your home, stay away from you or your workplace, and may provide other kinds of protection you may need.**  For a full list of the ways that a sexual assault protection order can help you, go to How can a sexual assault protection order help me? If the offender violates any of the provisions in the order, s/he can face legal consequences.***

You can file for a sexual assault protection order regardless of whether or not there is pending litigation (for example, a lawsuit, complaint, petition, or other action) or another protection order between you and the offender.  However, if there is pending litigation or another protection order between you (such as a criminal court order) you do need to let the court know about this.****

* R.C.W. § 7.90.090(1)(a)
** R.C.W. § 7.90.090(2)
*** R.C.W. § 26.50.110
**** R.C.W. § 7.90.020(1),(2)

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back to topWhat types of sexual assault protection orders are available? How long do they last?

There are two types of sexual assault protection orders available in Washington:

  1. An ex parte temporary sexual assault protection order; and
  2. A final sexual assault protection order (which can be for a fixed period of time ("nonpermanent") or can be permanent).

You can get an ex parte temporary sexual assault protection order if you have been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration and the judge believes that you would likely be harmed by the offender if s/he were given notice of your petition before you got the sexual assault protection order.*  The offender does not need to be present or have notice of the hearing for a temporary sexual assault protection order, which is what is meant by the term “ex parte.”  An ex parte temporary order may be renewed one or more times as needed.**  

An ex parte temporary order is effective for a set period of time, which is usually up to 14 days (or up to 24 days if service by publication or service by mail is permitted).  The court will schedule a final hearing to determine whether or not to grant a final sexual assault protection order no later than 14 days (or 24 days) after the temporary protection order was issued.** 

A final sexual assault protection order will be granted if the judge believes that you have been a victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration.***  You will have the opportunity to prove this to the judge at the final sexual assault protection order hearing where you can present evidence, witnesses, testimony, etc.  We strongly recommend getting an attorney to represent you at the hearing, if possible, to make sure your legal rights are protected.  You can find legal referrals on our WA Finding a Lawyer page.  If you are unable to get a lawyer, you can get more information about preparing for court on our Preparing Your Case page.  The final order is effective for a fixed period of time (nonpermanent) or it can be permanent (last forever).  A nonpermanent order may be renewed one or more times if you file a motion for renewal stating the reasons why you want to renew it at any time within the three months before the order expires.****  See How do I extend my protection order?

* R.C.W. § 7.90.110(1)(a),(b)
** R.C.W. §§ 7.90.120(1)(a); 7.90.121(1)
*** R.C.W. § 7.90.090(1)(a)
**** R.C.W. § 7.90.120(2); 7.90.121(2)

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back to topHow can a sexual assault protection order help me?

A sexual assault protection order can:

  • order the respondent to not have any physical contact with you;
  • order the respondent to not have any nonphysical contact with you either directly (for example, no phone calls, mail, email, written notes, faxes, etc.) or indirectly (through another person, often called “a third party”);
  • exclude (remove) the respondent from your home, workplace, school, or the day care or school of your child (if the child is the victim) or other locations;
  • prohibit (forbid) the respondent from coming within a certain distance of your home, workplace, school, day care or other locations;
  • order the respondent to transfer schools if s/he attends the same school as you; and/or
  • anything else that the judge believes is necessary to protect you.*

* R.C.W. § 7.90.090(2)(a)-(d),(3); see also Petition for Sexual Assault Protection Order

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back to topWhere can I file the petition?

You can file in the county or municipality where you live.*

* R.C.W. § 7.90.040(6)

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Getting a sexual assault protection order

back to topAm I eligible to file for an sexual assault protection order?

A sexual assault protection order is only for a victim of sexual assault who does not qualify for a domestic violence order for protection.*  If you qualify for a domestic violence order for protection, then that would be the petition you would file, not a sexual assault protection order petition. See our Am I eligible to file for a domestic violence order for protection? for more information about which order you might qualify for.

To get a sexual assault protection order, you must show that you have been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration. The judge cannot require proof of physical injury or proof that you reported the sexual assault to law enforcement when considering whether to give you the order.**  For the definitions of nonconsensual sexual conduct and sexual penetration, go to: What is the legal definition of sexual assault in Washington?

Note: If the judge believes that you were the victim of sexual assault, the judge cannot deny your petition for a sexual assault protection order even if any of the following are true:

  • you and/or the offender were voluntarily intoxicated (drunk, on drugs, etc.);
  • you engaged in some consensual sexual touching before the sexual assault;***
  • you did not report the assault to law enforcement;
  • you or the offender are minors (under age 18); or
  • you do not have proof of a physical injury.****

These things should not matter to the judge when deciding whether or not to grant you a sexual assault protection order.

* R.C.W. § 7.90.030(1)(a)
** R.C.W. § 7.90.090(1)(b)
*** R.C.W. § 7.90.090(4)
**** R.C.W. § 7.90.090(1)(b)

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back to topHow much does it cost to get a sexual assault protection order?

There is no fee for filing the petition or for having it served on the offender (known as “service of process”).  Also, you should be provided with however many certified copies that you need free of charge.*

* R.C.W. § 7.90.055

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back to topCan I file a petition on my own? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to file a sexual assault protection order – you can file on your own.  However, you may wish to have a lawyer represent you on the case, especially if the offender has a lawyer or if the case is going to go to trial.  If you can, contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.  If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance on the WA Finding a Lawyer page.  If the respondent (offender) is represented by a lawyer, the court may appoint a lawyer to represent you as well.* 

Anyone who is 16 or over who has been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration (and who does not qualify for a domestic violence order for protection) can file.  If you are under the age of 16, an adult can file on your behalf.**  An adult can also file on behalf of a victim who is considered to be a vulnerable adult (someone who is disabled/incapacitated) or on behalf of any adult who cannot file because of his/her age, disability, health or inaccessibility to the courthouse.***

Note: The judge may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent a minor for the court case if the judge thinks it is necessary.**** 

* R.C.W. § 7.90.070
** R.C.W. § 7.90.030(1)(b)(i)
*** R.C.W. § 7.90.030(1)(b)(ii),(iii)
**** R.C.W. § § 7.90.040(4)

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back to topCan a minor file for a sexual assault protection order?

Only a minor who is 16 or over and has been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration (and does not qualify for a domestic violence protection order) can file for a sexual assault protection order.  Anyone who is 16 years old or older does not need to have a guardian or a guardian ad litem to file for the protection order.  However, the judge may appoint a guardian ad litem (at no cost) to represent the minor if the judge thinks it is necessary.*

* R.C.W. § 7.90.040(2)-(4)

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back to topCan a sexual assault advocate come to court with me?

Yes.  You can have a sexual assault advocate come to court with you and talk to you in court, unless the judge says otherwise.  The advocate can also help you prepare the petition.*

* R.C.W. § 7.90.060

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back to topWhat are the steps involved with obtaining a sexual assault protection order?

The steps for getting a sexual assault protection order are similar to the steps involved with obtaining a domestic violence order for protection.  See our What are the steps for getting a domestic violence order of protection? page for more information.  The forms will be slightly different, so be sure to ask the clerk for the paperwork to file for a sexual assault protection order.

A person may file on behalf of a minor child or vulnerable adult who has been the victim of nonconsensual conduct or penetration.  Victims who are 16 and over can file on their own (don't need parent or guardian).*

* R.C.W. §§ 7.90.030(b)(ii),(iii), 7.90.040(1)-(3)

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After the hearing

back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some things you may want to consider doing.  However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk how to correct the order before you leave.
  • Make several copies of the order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the offender.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.
One week after court, you may want to call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the sexual assault protection order from the clerk.

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back to topWhere can I go for non-legal help and support?

You may want to reach out for support to deal with the trauma of being sexually assaulted – there are places that you can call for help. There are also Internet “chat rooms” for victims of sexual assault and incest where you can remain anonymous and still get support from others who have been through similar assaults.  Go to our National Organizations - Rape/Sexual Assault page for resources.

You can also read more about Sexual Assault/Rape, Marital/Partner Rape and Forced Prostitution on our site.

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back to topHow do I extend my protection order?

You can renew a final (nonpermanent) sexual assault protection order one or more times, as needed.  To apply for a renewal of a final (nonpermanent order), you would file a motion for renewal within 3 months before the order expires in which you would state the reasons why you want to renew the order.  A hearing on the motion will be held within 14 days (or within 24 days if the judge allows service by publication or service by mail).  Under exceptional circumstances, you may be able to appear at the hearing by telephone if necessary to prevent further sexual abuse.*

In order for the judge to deny the renewal, the abuser would have to prove at a hearing that:

  • there has been a "material change in circumstances;" and  
  • the abuser is therefore "not likely" to engage in, or attempt to engage in, physical or nonphysical contact with you once the order expires.**  

It is not enough, however, for the abuser to just prove that a lot of time has passed since the order was issued and s/he has followed the terms of the order during that time.  (However, those factors can be considered along with other factors presented by the abuser.)**  To read all of the factors that the judge can consider when deciding if, in fact, there has been a material change in circumstances, go to What factors will a judge take into consideration when deciding whether or not to extend my order?

If the judge rules in your favor, the sexual assault protection order can be renewed for another fixed time period or it can be permanent order (last forever).**

* R.C.W. § 7.90.121(1),(2),(4)
** R.C.W. § 7.90.121(3)(b)

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back to topWhat factors will a judge take into consideration when deciding whether or not to extend my order?

In order for the judge to deny your request to extend/renew your order, the abuser would have to prove that there has been a "material change in circumstances" and that s/he is therefore "not likely" to engage in, or attempt to engage in, physical or nonphysical contact with you once the order expires.  The following are a list of factors that the judge can consider when deciding if, in fact, there has been a material change in circumstances

  1. whether the respondent has committed or threatened sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, or other violent acts since the protection order was entered;
  2. whether the respondent has violated the terms of the protection order and how much time has passed since the order was issued;
  3. whether the respondent has shown suicidal ideations or suicide attempts since the protection order was entered;
  4. whether the respondent has been convicted of any criminal activity since the protection order was entered;
  5. whether the respondent has either:
    • acknowledged responsibility for the acts of sexual assault that caused you to get the protection order; or
    • successfully completed sexual assault perpetrator treatment or counseling since the protection order was entered;
  6. whether the respondent has a continuing involvement with drug or alcohol abuse, if such abuse was a factor in the protection order;
  7. whether you or the respondent has relocated to an area that puts more distance between you (although the judge is also supposed to recognize that acts of sexual assault can be committed from any distance including online); and
  8. any other factors relating to a material change in circumstances.*

* R.C.W. § 7.90.121(3)(b),(c)

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back to topWhat happens if I move?

Your order is valid throughout the state of Washington and in all U.S. states and territories.  When you first get the order from court, a copy of your order is forwarded by the clerk of the court to the appropriate law enforcement agency that is specified in the order.  Then, this law enforcement agency will enter your order into a computer database that other law enforcement agencies in the state have access to.  Once it is in the database, this is considered giving notice to all law enforcement agencies that the order exists, and therefore it is enforceable in any county you move to within Washington.* 

Additionally, federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.**  However, different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders.  If you are moving to another state, you can find out about your new state's policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, a lawyer in your state, or the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111, ext. 2).

* R.C.W. § 7.90.160(1),(2)
** 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a)

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back to topWhat if the abuser violates the order?

Violating an order for protection is against the law.  There are two ways to get help if the abuser violates the order.

You may file for civil contempt for a violation of the order.  The abuser may be in "civil contempt" if s/he does anything that your order for protection orders him/her not to do.  To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk's office in the courthouse where the order was issued and ask for the forms to file for civil contempt.

You can also seek justice through the criminal justice system by reporting the abuser to the police.  Violation of an order of protection can be a "gross misdemeanor," which is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to 364 days, a fine o up to $5,000, or both.  In certain cases, such as where there have been prior violations of orders of protection or if the abuser commits an assault when violating the order, it can be a class c felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.*

* R.C.W. §§ 26.50.110(1)(a),(4),(5); 9A.20.021(1)(c),(2)

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