What is a sexual abuse restraining order?
Similar to a domestic violence restraining order, a sexual abuse restraining order is a court order that can protect you from an abuser if you are the victim of sexual abuse.
What is the legal definition of sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse includes:
- any sexual crime included in Chapter 709 of the Iowa Code (examples include sexual exploitation by a counselor, indecent exposure, and invasion of privacy);
- incest; and
- sexual exploitation of a minor.
Sexual abuse also includes behavior that is similar to the above acts that takes place in another state and is also a crime in that state.1
1 IA ST § 236A.2(5)
What types of sexual abuse restraining orders are there? How long do they last?
In Iowa, there are three types of sexual assault restraining orders: emergency, temporary, and final.
Emergency orders: When the court is closed or a judge is unavailable at the end of the day or on weekends, you can file a petition for an emergency order with the district judge or district associate judge. The judge can grant you an emergency order if it is necessary to protect you from sexual abuse. The abuser does not have to receive notice of your case for the judge to grant an emergency order. Emergency orders last for 72 hours.1
Temporary orders: When you file a petition for a sexual assault restraining order, you can ask for a temporary ex parte restraining order to be issued immediately. Ex parte means that the abuser does not appear at the hearing or have notice of the case beforehand. A judge can grant you a temporary order if s/he decides it is necessary to protect you before the hearing for a final order, and you have given the judge good cause to believe the incidents in your petition.2 Your temporary order will last until your hearing for a final order. The court will schedule your hearing for a final order to take place between 5 – 15 days from when the abuser receives notice of the temporary order.3 The judge could also issue a subpoena (an order) requiring witnesses to appear and testify in the case if you or the abuser ask the judge to do so. The judge must also let the abuser know that s/he has the right to hire an attorney for the trial.4
Final orders: Before the judge can grant a final order, the abuser must have the opportunity to appear in court to present evidence and testimony. At that hearing, the abuser can agree to consent to the order without admitting to committing sexual abuse or the respondent can ask for a trial. If there is a trial in your case and the judge finds that the abuser has sexually abused you, the judge can grant you a final order. The judge can issue the final order to last for up to one year.5 The order can also be extended multiple times. See Can I extend my order? for more information.
1 IA ST § 236A.8(1), (2)
2 IA ST § 236A.6(2)
3 IA ST § 236A.6(1)
4 IA ST § 236A.6(4), (5)
5 IA ST § 236A.7(2), (1A)
What protections can I get in a sexual abuse restraining order?
A sexual abuse restraining order can order the abuser to:
- stop sexually abusing you; and
- stay away from your home, school, and work.1
The judge may also be able to order additional protections in your order depending on your situation and may even order the abuser to pay your attorney’s fees and court costs.2 Be sure to include any specific requests in your petition.2
In addition, your order should include information about whether the abuser should be arrested for violating the terms of the order.3
1 IA ST § 236A.7(1)
2 IA ST § 236A.7(1),(4)
3 IA ST § 236A.7(3)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.