What is the legal definition of sexual assault?
Sexual assault is non-consensual sexual contact.1 Non-consensual sexual contact is when an abuser knowingly has sexual contact with you or causes another person to have sexual contact with you when:
- the abuser knows (or should reasonably know) that the behavior is offensive to you;
- the abuser knows (or should reasonably know) that you have a “mental disease or defect” that would make you unable to understand the abuser’s behavior;
- the abuser or someone acting for the abuser has impacted your ability to consent or control your behavior by giving you alcohol or drugs without your knowledge;
- you are detained in a hospital, prison, or other institution and the abuser is your supervisor or has the power to discipline you;
- you are 15-17 years old and the abuser is your parent, guardian, or some other person responsible for your supervision and welfare; or
- you are 15-17 years old and the abuser is an adult.2
1 N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01.2(1)(b)
2 N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-07(1)
Who can file for a sexual assault restraining order?
You can file for a sexual assault restraining order if you are an adult victim of sexual assault. You can also file on behalf of a minor child if you are the parent, step-parent, or guardian of the child and the child has been the victim of sexual assault.1
1 N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01.2(2); North Dakota Court Instructions for Requesting a Sexual Assault Restraining Order
What kinds of sexual assault restraining orders are there and how long do they last?
There are two types of sexual assault restraining orders:
Temporary (ex parte) sexual assault restraining orders: The judge can issue a temporary sexual assault restraining order ex parte, which means the abuser does not have to be present in court or have notice of the hearing. If the judge finds that your petition shows reasonable grounds to believe the abuser committed a sexual assault, the judge can issue the temporary sexual assault restraining order.1 A temporary sexual assault restraining order usually lasts for up to 14 days until the hearing on a longer-term sexual assault restraining order. The temporary order can be issued for longer than 14 days if you show the judge a good reason (good cause) for why the hearing cannot happen in fourteen days.2
Sexual assault restraining orders: A (final) sexual assault restraining order will only be granted after the abuser has been notified of the time, date, and place of the court hearing and has a chance to participate in the court hearing.3 Both you and the abuser will have an opportunity to present evidence, testimony, witnesses, etc. – you might want to get a lawyer for this hearing, especially if you think the abuser might have one. Go to our ND Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.
If after the hearing, the judge believes that the abuser committed the sexual assault, the judge may grant a sexual assault restraining order. A sexual assault restraining order can last for up to two years.4
1 N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01.2(4)
2 N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01.2(6)(c)
3 N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01.2(6)(b)
4 N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01.2(7)
How can a sexual assault restraining order help me?
A temporary or final sexual assault restraining order can require that the abuser not:
- harass, stalk, or threaten you;
- come to your house, school, and workplace; and
- contact you.1
Note: A final sexual assault restraining order that includes these protections cannot be granted until the abuser has received notice of the case and had an opportunity to be present for a court hearing.2
1 N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01.2(5)
2 N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01.2(6)
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.