Protect Sexual Assault Survivors

Cali advocates for reforming Sexual Assault Protection Orders to better protect survivors. Screen capture image from KIRO 7.
Cali advocates for reforming Sexual Assault Protection Orders to better protect survivors. Screen capture image from KIRO 7.

Cali was just four years old when a teenage boy sexually abused her and threatened to hurt her family if she told anyone. The abuser’s family moved him out of the area, but he returned to King County in 2014. Cali petitioned a judge for a Sexual Assault Protection Order (SAPO), but had to face her former babysitter in court to receive it.

“It brought back a lot of memories,” Cali told KIRO 7. “It was just very difficult. I didn’t want to see him.”

Cali’s SAPO expired after just two years, and she dreaded once again facing her abuser in court and describing what happened when she was just a small child.

“It’s just something that I don’t want to have to be reminded of, over and over.¬† It’s something that I just wish I could move beyond, but it just keeps following me,” Cali said.

It is time to reform sexual assault protections orders (SAPOs) so that survivors are offered the same basic protections that other protection orders provide.

SAPOs can last two years before they must be renewed. They are the only protection orders that come with such a time constraint. This requires a victim to return to court every two years if he or she needs continued protection, placing an unnecessary burden on victims and discouraging them from using a law that is designed to offer protection. Additionally, the victim bears the burden of proof to get the SAPO reissued. In domestic violence, stalking, and anti-harassment cases, the respondent bears this burden. Because the current renewal process is as difficult as seeking the original SAPO, it prevents many survivors from returning to court for much-needed continued protections.

Women of color experience sexual assault at a higher rate and are less likely to report to authorities. Although an average of 33 percent of women have experienced a sexual assault in their lifetime, more than 40 percent of black women will have experienced sexual violence by the age of 18.  For every one woman of color who reports a sexual assault, 15 will not.