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Advocates Say Sexual Assault Protection Orders Should Be Permanent in Washington

"Courtroom One Gavel" by Joe Gratz is licensed under CC BY 2.0

You might assume that if you go to court and secure a civil sexual assault protection order against an assailant the protection order will be permanent. But, that's not the case in Washington even though protection orders in domestic violence, harassment and stalking cases in the state are. Advocates for victims have been trying to change the law that says sexual assault protection orders are only good for two years.Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director for the King County’s Sexual Assault Resource Center, says having to return to court to get a protection order extended puts a real burden on the victim.

Stone says recently a high school freshman girl sought a protection order from a boy in her class who had assaulted her. 

“They’re going to be in the same school presumably for the next four years. It would be really helpful if she could go through the next four years knowing she had some protection in place,” said Stone.

Stone says often these are situations where the case does not go through the criminal justice system and a civil protection order is the only recourse a victim has.

Stone's organization and other groups, including Legal Voice, the Washington State Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs and YWCA Sexual Violence Legal Services worked to pass a law that would make these protection orders permanent. The bill, SB 6151 failed to pass. Proponents say it was the victim of "gun politics."

In the final days of the session, the National Rifle Association (NRA) sought an amendment that would keep the two year limit on protection orders in place if a judge had required the perpetrator to surrender his or her firearms.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.