What should I do when I leave the courthouse?
Here are some things you may want to consider doing. However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.
- Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk how to correct the order before you leave.
- Make several copies of the order as soon as possible.
- Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
- Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
- Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the offender.
- Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
- If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
- You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.
One week after court, you may want to call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the sexual assault protection order from the clerk.
Where can I go for non-legal help and support?
You may want to reach out for support to deal with the trauma of being sexually assaulted – there are places that you can call for help. There are also Internet “chat rooms” for victims of sexual assault and incest where you can remain anonymous and still get support from others who have been through similar assaults. Go to our National Organizations - Rape/Sexual Assault page for resources.
How do I extend my protection order?
You can renew a final (nonpermanent) sexual assault protection order one or more times, as needed. To apply for a renewal of a final (nonpermanent order), you would file a motion for renewal within 3 months before the order expires in which you would state the reasons why you want to renew the order. A hearing on the motion will be held within 14 days (or within 24 days if the judge allows service by publication or service by mail). Under exceptional circumstances, you may be able to appear at the hearing by telephone if necessary to prevent further sexual abuse.1
In order for the judge to deny the renewal, the abuser would have to prove at a hearing that:
- there has been a “material change in circumstances;” and
- the abuser is therefore “not likely” to engage in, or attempt to engage in, physical or nonphysical contact with you once the order expires.2
It is not enough, however, for the abuser to just prove that a lot of time has passed since the order was issued and s/he has followed the terms of the order during that time. (However, those factors can be considered along with other factors presented by the abuser.)2 To read all of the factors that the judge can consider when deciding if, in fact, there has been a material change in circumstances, go to What factors will a judge take into consideration when deciding whether or not to extend my order?
If the judge rules in your favor, the sexual assault protection order can be renewed for another fixed time period or it can be permanent order (last forever).2
1 R.C.W. § 7.90.121(1),(2),(4)
2 R.C.W. § 7.90.121(3)(b)
What factors will a judge take into consideration when deciding whether or not to extend my order?
In order for the judge to deny your request to extend/renew your order, the abuser would have to prove that there has been a “material change in circumstances” and that s/he is therefore “not likely” to engage in, or attempt to engage in, physical or nonphysical contact with you once the order expires. The following are a list of factors that the judge can consider when deciding if, in fact, there has been a material change in circumstances:
- whether the respondent has committed or threatened sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, or other violent acts since the protection order was entered;
- whether the respondent has violated the terms of the protection order and how much time has passed since the order was issued;
- whether the respondent has shown suicidal ideations or suicide attempts since the protection order was entered;
- whether the respondent has been convicted of any criminal activity since the protection order was entered;
- whether the respondent has either:
- acknowledged responsibility for the acts of sexual assault that caused you to get the protection order; or
- successfully completed sexual assault perpetrator treatment or counseling since the protection order was entered;
- whether the respondent has a continuing involvement with drug or alcohol abuse, if such abuse was a factor in the protection order;
- whether you or the respondent has relocated to an area that puts more distance between you (although the judge is also supposed to recognize that acts of sexual assault can be committed from any distance including online); and
- any other factors relating to a material change in circumstances.1
1 R.C.W. § 7.90.121(3)(b),(c)
What happens if I move?
Your order is valid throughout the state of Washington and in all U.S. states and territories. When you first get the order from court, a copy of your order is forwarded by the clerk of the court to the appropriate law enforcement agency that is specified in the order. Then, this law enforcement agency will enter your order into a computer database that other law enforcement agencies in the state have access to. Once it is in the database, this is considered giving notice to all law enforcement agencies that the order exists, and therefore it is enforceable in any county you move to within Washington.1
Additionally, federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.2 However, different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders. If you are moving to another state, you can find out about your new state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, a lawyer in your state, or the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111, ext. 2).
1 R.C.W. § 7.90.160(1),(2)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a)
What if the abuser violates the order?
Violating an order for protection is against the law. There are two ways to get help if the abuser violates the order.
You may file for civil contempt for a violation of the order. The abuser may be in “civil contempt” if s/he does anything that your order for protection orders him/her not to do. To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk’s office in the courthouse where the order was issued and ask for the forms to file for civil contempt.
You can also seek justice through the criminal justice system by reporting the abuser to the police. Violation of an order of protection can be a “gross misdemeanor,” which is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to 364 days, a fine o up to $5,000, or both. In certain cases, such as where there have been prior violations of orders of protection or if the abuser commits an assault when violating the order, it can be a class c felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.1
1 R.C.W. §§ 26.50.110(1)(a),(4),(5); 9A.20.021(1)(c),(2)