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November 5, 2020

What is a protective order for sexual assault, sexual abuse, indecent assault, stalking, or trafficking?

A protective order for sexual assault, sexual abuse, indecent assault, stalking, or trafficking is a civil court order that is similar to a protective order for domestic violence, but it is designed specifically to protect you from someone who sexually assaulted you, committed other sexual offenses against you, stalked you, trafficked you or forced you into prostitution. You do not have to have a specific relationship to the perpetrator.1

1 See Texas C.C.P. Art. 7A.01(a)

What is the definition of sexual assault?

Sexual assault is basically defined in two different ways:

1. It can be the penetration of the anus or genitals with any object or with one’s sexual organ, or penetration of the mouth with one’s sexual organ, without the consent of the victim.1 

“Without consent” of the victim means:

  • The victim is compelled (forced) to participate by actual or threatened physical force or violence (the threat of violence can be to the victim or another person);
  • The victim is unconscious or physically unable to resist;
  • The victim is mentally incapable (due to a mental disability) to consent or resist the act;
  • The victim has not consented and the abuser knows that the victim is unaware that the sexual assault is occurring;
  • The victim was given a substance by the abuser without the victim’s consent that makes the victim unable to understand the situation;
  • The perpetrator is a public servant, or a mental health provider (and the victim is his/her patient) or a clergyman (and the victim is a parishioner) who coerced the victim to participate; or
  • The perpetrator is an employee of a facility where the other person is a resident.2

2.  Sexual assault could involve any of these acts between a child and an adult when the perpetrator knowingly or intentionally:

  • caused the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;
  • caused the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;
  • caused the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
  • caused the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or
  • caused the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.3

However, there could be a valid defense to the crime of sexual assault, as described in #2, above, if the perpetrator can prove that:

  • s/he was the spouse of the child at the time of the offense; or
  • at the time of the offense, the perpetrator was not more than three years older than the victim and all of the following are true:
    • the perpetrator was not a convicted sex offender;
    • the perpetrator did not have a reportable conviction or adjudication for a sexual offense;
    • the victim was at least 14 years old at the time of the offense;
    • the perpetrator was not committing bigamy, as defined by law; and
    • the victim consented to the act (there was no force or threats).4

You can go to our TX Statutes page to read the actual definitions of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault.  For additional crimes that could qualify a person for this type of protective order, go to Who qualifies for a sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking protective order?

1 Tex. Penal Code § 22.011(a)(1)
2 Tex. Penal Code § 22.011(b)
3 Tex. Penal Code § 22.011(a)(2)
4 Tex. Penal Code § 22.011(e)

What is the definition of stalking?

Stalking is defined as when on more than one occasion, and as part of a course of conduct that is directed specifically at you, all of the following are met:

  1. the stalker commits harassment or s/he acts in a way that the stalker reasonably should know that you will regard as threatening you, your boyfriend/girlfriend, or a member of your family or household with bodily injury, death or that an offense will be committed against your property or pet;
  2. the stalker’s behavior actually causes you, your boyfriend/girlfriend, or a member of your family or household to be placed in fear of bodily injury or death or in fear that an offense will be committed against your property or pet; or that makes you feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended; and
  3. the actions would cause a “reasonable person” to fear these things described in # 2 or to feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.1 

1 Tex. Penal Code § 42.072(a),(d)

What is the definition of indecent assault?

Indecent assault is when the abuser does any of the following to you for without your consent for the sexual pleasure of the abuser or another person:

  • touches your anus, breast, or genitals;
  • puts your anus, breast, or genitals in contact with another person;
  • exposes or attempts to expose your genitals, pubic area, anus, buttocks, or nipple; or
  • causes you to come into contact with the blood, seminal fluid, vaginal fluid, saliva, urine, or feces of any person.1

1 Tex. Penal Code § 22.012(a)

What are the definitions of sexual abuse, trafficking, and other crimes that could qualify me for this protective order?

You can read the definitions of the other crimes (aside from sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and stalking) that can qualify you for this order on our Statutes page at the links below:

  1. indecency with a child;
  2. continuous sexual abuse of young child or children;
  3. trafficking (including continuous trafficking); and
  4. forced prostitution.1

1 Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.01(a)(1), (a)(2)

What types of protective orders are available? How long do they last?

Temporary ex parte order
At the time you file your application, the court can give you a temporary ex parte (emergency) protective order for sexual assault or abuse, stalking or trafficking that would last until your full court hearing. An ex parte order may be granted if there is a clear and present danger to you of sexual assault, sexual abuse, indecent assault, stalking, trafficking, or other harm. The order can protect you or any other member your family or household.1 Be sure to ask for an ex parte order if you want this immediate protection.

Protective order (after a hearing)
The judge will hold a hearing where both you and the abuser have the right to attend, offer evidence, testimony, witnesses, etc. You may choose to be represented by a lawyer, especially if the abuser will have one. At this hearing, the judge will decide whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that you are the victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, indecent assault, stalking, trafficking, or one of the other crimes of a sexual nature.2

If the judge grants a protective order after a hearing, the order can last for as long as the lifetime of the abuser and the victim or for any shorter period specifically stated in the order. If the order does not state the termination date, the order ends two years after the date it was issued.3 For the order to last as long as the lives of the abuse and the victim, both of the following must be true:

  1. the abuser was convicted of, or placed on deferred adjudication community supervision for, any of the following crimes:
  2. the abuser is required to register for life as a sex offender.4

Note: If the perpetrator is confined or in prison on the date the order is set to expire, it’s possible that the order could automatically be extended until one year after the date s/he is released. However, this only applies if the order was issued before September 1, 2017. This law was repealed (is no longer in effect) and so it does not apply to any orders that were issued on or after September 1, 2017.5

1 Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.02
2 Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.03(a)
3 Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.07(a)
4 Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.07(a-1)
5 Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.07(c)

What protections can I get in a protective order for sexual assault, sexual abuse, indecent assault, stalking, or trafficking?

A judge can order the offender to:

  • stop doing anything that is reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass you, your family, or any member of your household;
  • stop communicating directly or indirectly (through another person) with you, your family or your household member in a harassing manner;
  • stay away from your and your family/household members’ home, school, child care facility, workplace or business;
  • turn over any firearms in his/her possession to law enforcement (unless the person is a peace officer actively engaged in employment as a sworn, full-time paid employee of a state agency) and the judge can suspend his/her license to carry a concealed handgun; and/or
  • take other actions that the judge decides are necessary to reduce the likelihood of future harm to you or your family/household.1

Note: Even if the order doesn’t specifically say that the abuser has to turn over his/her firearms, possession of a firearm by a non-police officer respondent is illegal under Texas state law and federal law. Please see TX State Gun Laws and Federal Gun Laws for more information.

1 Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.05(a)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.