What is the legal definition of sexual assault in Washington?
For the purpose of getting a sexual assault protection order, the abuser must have committed one of two crimes against you: “nonconsensual sexual conduct” or “nonconsensual sexual penetration.”
“Nonconsensual” means that you did not freely agree to the sexual conduct or penetration.1 If you “agreed” to the sexual contact because you were being threatened with physical harm, for example, that would not be considered that you “freely agreed” to the contact.
Sexual conduct is when the offender:
- touches or fondles your genitals, anus, or breasts, including through clothing;
- displays his/her genitals, anus, or breasts for the purposes of arousal or sexual gratification;
- forces you to touch his/her genitals, anus, or breasts;
- forces you to touch another person’s genitals, anus, or breasts;
- forces you to display your genitals, anus, or breasts for the purpose of sexual gratification;
- touches the body (clothed or unclothed) of a child under the age of thirteen for the purposes of sexual gratification or arousal; or
- forces a child under the age of thirteen to touch or fondle (including through clothing) his/her genitals, anus, or breasts.2
Sexual penetration is:
- any contact between the sex organ or anus of one person by
- an object, or
- the sex organ, mouth or anus of another person; or
- any intrusion into the sex organ or anus of one person by
- any part of the body of another person, or
- any animal, or
- any object.3
Note: There does not have to be semen found to prove sexual penetration.3
1 R.C.W. § 7.90.010(1)
2 R.C.W. § 7.90.010(4)(a)-(f)
3 R.C.W. § 7.90.010(5)
What is a sexual assault protection order?
If you have been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration by someone you are/were not in an intimate relationship with and who is not your family or household member, you may be eligible to file for a sexual assault protection order.1 If you were sexually assaulted by a current/former intimate partner or family/household member, then you may qualify for a domestic violence order for protection. See Domestic Violence Orders for Protection for more information.
A sexual assault protection order is a paper that is signed by a judge and can order the offender to have no contact with you, leave your home, stay away from you or your workplace, and may provide other kinds of protection you may need.2 For a full list of the ways that a sexual assault protection order can help you, go to How can a sexual assault protection order help me? If the offender violates any of the provisions in the order, s/he can face legal consequences.3
You can file for a sexual assault protection order regardless of whether or not there is pending litigation (for example, a lawsuit, complaint, petition, or other action) or another protection order between you and the offender. However, if there is pending litigation or another protection order between you (such as a criminal court order) you do need to let the court know about this.4
1 R.C.W. § 7.90.090(1)(a)
2 R.C.W. § 7.90.090(2)
3 R.C.W. § 26.50.110
4 R.C.W. § 7.90.020(1),(2)
What types of sexual assault protection orders are available? How long do they last?
There are two types of sexual assault protection orders available in Washington:
- An ex parte temporary sexual assault protection order; and
- A final sexual assault protection order (which can be for a fixed period of time (“nonpermanent”) or can be permanent).
You can get an ex parte temporary sexual assault protection order if you have been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration and the judge believes that you would likely be harmed by the offender if s/he were given notice of your petition before you got the sexual assault protection order.1 The offender does not need to be present or have notice of the hearing for a temporary sexual assault protection order, which is what is meant by the term “ex parte.” An ex parte temporary order may be renewed one or more times as needed.2
An ex parte temporary order is effective for a set period of time, which is usually up to 14 days (or up to 24 days if service by publication or service by mail is permitted). The court will schedule a final hearing to determine whether or not to grant a final sexual assault protection order no later than 14 days (or 24 days) after the temporary protection order was issued.2
A final sexual assault protection order will be granted if the judge believes that you have been a victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration.3 You will have the opportunity to prove this to the judge at the final sexual assault protection order hearing where you can present evidence, witnesses, testimony, etc. We strongly recommend getting an attorney to represent you at the hearing, if possible, to make sure your legal rights are protected. You can find legal referrals on our WA Finding a Lawyer page. If you are unable to get a lawyer, you can get more information about preparing for court on our At the Hearing page. The final order is effective for a fixed period of time (nonpermanent) or it can be permanent (last forever). A nonpermanent order may be renewed one or more times if you file a motion for renewal stating the reasons why you want to renew it at any time within the three months before the order expires.4 See How do I extend my protection order?
1 R.C.W. § 7.90.110(1)(a),(b)
2 R.C.W. §§ 7.90.120(1)(a); 7.90.121(1)
3 R.C.W. § 7.90.090(1)(a)
4 R.C.W. § 7.90.120(2); 7.90.121(2)
What protections can I get in a sexual assault protection order?
A sexual assault protection order can:
- order the respondent to not have any physical contact with you;
- order the respondent to not have any nonphysical contact with you either directly (for example, no phone calls, mail, email, written notes, faxes, etc.) or indirectly (through another person, often called “a third party”);
- exclude (remove) the respondent from your home, workplace, school, or the day care or school of your child (if the child is the victim) or other locations;
- prohibit (forbid) the respondent from coming within a certain distance of your home, workplace, school, day care or other locations;
- order the respondent to transfer schools if s/he attends the same school as you; and/or
- anything else that the judge believes is necessary to protect you.1
1 R.C.W. § 7.90.090(2)(a)-(d),(3); see also Petition for Sexual Assault Protection Order
Where can I file the petition?
You can file in the county or municipality where you live.1
1 R.C.W. § 7.90.040(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.