What is a sexual assault protective order?
Similar to a protective order for domestic abuse, a sexual assault protective order is a court order that can protect you from an abuser if you are the victim of nonconsensual sexual contact.1 Unlike the protective order for domestic abuse, you do not need to have a specific relationship with the abuser to get a sexual assault protective order.2
1 LA R.S. § 46:2184
2 LA R.S. § 46:2183(A)
What is the legal definition of nonconsensual sexual contact?
To be eligible for a sexual assault protective order, you must be the victim of sexual assault, which is defined as any act of nonconsensual sexual contact. “Nonconsensual sexual contact” includes the crime of “obscenity” or any sex offense listed in LA R.S. 15:541(subsection 24).1 Some examples of the sex offenses listed in the law include: rape, sexual battery, and photographing or videotaping someone without his/her consent for the purpose of sexual arousal.2 An example of the crime of “obscenity” includes exposure of genitals or breasts in a public place with the intent of arousing sexual desire.3Note: Although the law that defines “sexual offenses” lists very specific crimes, as explained above, the law also uses the phrase “including, but not limited to” when listing the crimes.1 Therefore, it is possible that other acts that are not one of the listed crimes may also be considered nonconsensual sexual contact.
1 LA R.S. § 46:2184
2 LA R.S. § 15:541(24)
3 LA R.S. § 14:106(1)
What types of sexual assault protective orders are there? How long do they last?
There are two types of sexual assault protective orders:
- temporary restraining orders; and
- protective orders.
The judge may issue you a temporary restraining order without the abuser present (ex parte) if there is “good cause” to do so. Proving that you are the victim of sexual assault is considered to be “good cause” to grant this ex parte order.1
If the judge does grant you a temporary restraining order, the abuser will be notified that you have an order against him/her and the court will give you a date, usually within 21 days, for a full court hearing. This is referred to as “the hearing on the rule to show cause,” where you and the abuser each have a chance to be present and tell your sides of the story.2
If the judge does not grant you a temporary restraining order on the day that you file your petition, the judge should set the matter down for a hearing within 10 days of the abuser being served with the petition. This is referred to as “the hearing on the rule to show cause,” where you and the abuser each have a chance to be present and tell your sides of the story.2
After a full court hearing, a judge can issue a protective order. A protective order can generally last up to 18 months, and can later be renewed after a hearing in front of a judge.4 The parts of the protective order that tell the abuser to not abuse, harass, or interfere with you can last forever.5
1 LA R.S. § 46:2183(B)
2 LA R.S. § 46:2135(B)
3 LA R.S. § 46:2135(D)
4 LA R.S. § 46:2136(F)(1)
5 LA R.S. § 46:2136(F)(2)(A)
Where can I file for a sexual assault protective order?
You can file for a sexual assault protective order in any court that hears family or juvenile matters. However, it must be filed in the parish:
- where you live;
- where the abuser lives; or
- where the sexual assault occurred.1
1 LA R.S. § 46:2185
What protections can I get in a sexual assault protective order?
The law says that a victim of sexual assault can get all of the same protections in his/her protective order as a victim of domestic violence can get.1 We explain the protections available in a domestic violence protective order here, although some of them may not apply.
In a temporary restraining order, a judge may order the abuser to:
- Stop threatening, harassing, or hurting you;
- Not contact or interfere with you or your children (and give you temporary custody);
- Stay away from your residence, place of employment, school, etc.;
- Prevent you and the abuser from giving away, selling, or destroying any mutually-owned property;
- Move out of the residence (if you live together);
- Note: If the abuser solely owns or leases the house or apartment, s/he may not be asked to move out;
- Return your personal property to you; and/or
- Give you possession of your pet or order the abuser to stop abusing your pet.
In a long-term protective order (after a full hearing), a judge may:
- Order all of the relief listed above;
- Establish temporary visitation;
- Award you temporary support;
- Order an additional medical opinion regarding a medical evaluation of the abuser (or of you) to be conducted by an independent court-appointed evaluator who qualifies as an expert in the field of domestic abuse; and
- Order the abuser to attend counseling.2
In addition, the law says that the abuser must (“shall”) pay for all of your court costs, attorney fees, costs of enforcing or modifying the order, costs of appeals, evaluation fees, and expert witness fees based on filing or defending any proceeding concerning a domestic abuse protection order. The abuser must also pay for all costs of medical and psychological care for you (the abused adult), or for any of your children when the care is needed due to the domestic violence.3
Note: Louisiana law prohibits the defendant (abuser) from possessing a firearm while the long-term protective order is in effect if the order includes a finding that the defendant represents a credible (believable) threat to the petitioner’s physical safety and the order includes a notice to the defendant about this law and the federal firearm law.4
1 LA R.S. § 46:2183(A)
2 LA R.S. §§ 46:2135; 46:2136
3 LA R.S. § 46:2136.1
4 LA R.S. § 46:2136.3
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.