What is a sexual abuse protective order?
Similar to a restraining order to prevent abuse, a sexual abuse protective order (“SAPO”) is a civil court order that can protect you if you are the victim of sexual abuse (including sexual assault, rape, sodomy) and you fear for your safety. Unlike a restraining order to prevent abuse, to qualify for a sexual assault protective order you cannot have a family or household relationship with the abuser.1 Note: If you are the victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault and are in a family or household relationship with the abuser, you may qualify for a restraining order to prevent abuse.
1 ORS § 163.763(1)
What is the legal definition of sexual abuse?
For the purpose of getting a sexual abuse protective order, sexual abuse is defined as any “sexual contact” with a person:
- who does not consent to it; or
- who is incapable (unable) to consent to the sexual contact because the victim is:
- under 18 years of age;
- “incapable of appraising the nature of the person’s conduct,” which the law defines as:
- being unable to understand the nature of the conduct;
- being unable to understand the right to choose whether and how to engage in conduct, including the right to withdraw one’s prior consent to the conduct; or
- being unable to communicate one’s decision to engage in conduct;
- mentally incapacitated, which the law defines as being unable to evaluate or control his/her own conduct; or
- physically helpless, which the law defines as being unconscious or unable to communicate his/her unwillingness to the sexual act.1
Sexual contact is when anyone touches your sexual or intimate parts or causes you to touch the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of arousing or satisfying the sexual desire of either person.2 In addition to “touching” one’s sexual or intimate parts, it would also include sexual assault, rape, sodomy, and forced oral sex.
Note: There could be some defenses to an accusation of sexual abuse related to the difference in age between the victim and due to other circumstances.3 You can read about these defenses here and here on our Selected Oregon Statutes page.
1 ORS §§ 163.760(2); 163.315(1), (3); 163.305(2), (4)
2 ORS §§ 163.760(3); 163.305(5)
3 ORS §163.760(2)(b)
What types of sexual abuse protective orders are there? How long do they last?
There are two types of sexual abuse protective orders, described below.
Ex parte order
When you file a petition for a sexual abuse protective order in circuit court, the judge can hold an ex parte hearing in person or by telephone. Ex parte means that the abuser does not have prior notice of the hearing and is not present at the hearing. If the judge finds that it is reasonable for a person in your situation to fear for your physical safety, the judge can issue a restraining order.1
The abuser has 30 days to request a hearing after s/he is served with the ex parte order. If the abuser requests a hearing, the court staff will notify you of the date and time of the hearing and give you a copy of the abuser’s request.2 The hearing will be scheduled within 21 days of the abuser’s request. You may have to explain the incidents of sexual abuse to the judge, and the abuser will also have an opportunity to give the judge his/her testimony and evidence. At that hearing, the judge could change or dismiss the restraining order.3 If the abuser fails to request a hearing at the end of the 30 days, the terms in your ex parte order remain in effect.4
The final order will be in effect for five years, or for minor petitioners, it will last until January 1 after the petitioner reaches the age of 18, whichever is longer.5 However, the judge can make the order permanent with no expiration date, if:
- the abuser has been convicted of sexual misconduct or rape in the third degree at the time of the petition; or
- the judge finds that a reasonable person would be concerned for his/her safety given the situation, and the passage of time would not change that fear. When making this decision, the judge can consider:
- whether the abuser has a history of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse;
- if the petitioner is a minor who is related to the abuser by blood or marriage; or
- any vulnerability of the petitioner that is not likely to improve over time.6
1 ORS § 163.765(1)
2 ORS § 163.765(6)(a), (6)(b)
3 ORS § 163.767(1)
4 ORS § 163.765(7)
5 ORS § 163.765(8)(a)
6 ORS § 163.765(8)(b), (8)(c)
Where can I file for a sexual abuse protective order?
You can file for a sexual abuse protective order in the circuit court in the county where either you or the abuser lives.1
1 ORS § 163.763(2)(a)
What protections can I get in a sexual abuse protective order?
If the judge finds that you are the victim of sexual abuse and that you fear for your physical safety, the order will state that the abuser must:
- not contact you; and
- not do (or attempt to do) any of the following: intimidate, molest, interfere with or menace (physically threaten) you.
At your request, the judge can also order:
- that the abuser not contact your children, family members, or household members;
- that the abuser not enter or attempt to enter your residence or come within an area around your residence;
- that the abuser not intimidate, molest, interfere with, or menace your children and family or household members (or attempt to); and/or
- anything else necessary for your safety and the safety or your children and family or household members.1
1 ORS § 163.765(1)(a),(b)
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.