The 2017 Legislative session starts on January 9 and is scheduled to end April 23. During this time, KCSARC will prioritize amending the Sexual Assault Protection Order (SAPO) Act.
In the news:
Why it is important to pass HB 1384 (video) featuring Andrea Piper-Wentland, Executive Directory of WCSAP; Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director of KCSARC; and Cali Knox testifying in the House Judiciary Committee meeting on 1/24/2017.
The 2017 Legislative session starts on January 9 and is scheduled to end April 23.
KCSARC’s priority is amending the Sexual Assault Protection Order (SAPO) Act (HB 1384/SB 5256). These bills are sponsored by Representative Roger Goodman (D-45th) and Senator Joe Fain (R-47th). A SAPO is a civil order issued by the court that requires the perpetrator to stay away from the victim and place(s) that the victim frequents (home, work, school, etc.), and to have no further direct or indirect contact with the victim.
KCSARC’s analysis identified two issues which need to be changed to ensure that victims of sexual assault have better protection under the law:
1. Duration:Currently, SAPOs can only be granted for a maximum duration of two years. Two years is often an inadequate amount of time for the SAPO because the risk posed and the fear of harm may remain after that period of protection expires.
2. Reissuance:The burden of proof for the SAPO to be reissued (after two years) is currently on the victim. The victim is required to go back to court, often facing the person who assaulted them, and re-present their case.
How HB 1384/SB 5256 will improve the current law
This bill modifies the duration and burden of proof on reissuance elements of the SAPO statute. This will bring SAPOs in line with other Washington protection orders, affording the same protections to sexual assault victims as those granted to victims of domestic violence, stalking, or harassment. Judges will have discretion to grant a SAPO for any length of time, up to permanent, rather than the limit of two years. Additionally, the burden of proof on reissuance will be on the respondent to prove the SAPO is not needed, rather than on the victim to prove that it is.
Why this is important
The experience of Z, a high school freshman, illustrates both the value of a SAPO and the current challenges in securing this protection.
Z was a freshman in high school. She was raped by a classmate who was in the same grade and in many of her classes. After the assault, she was unable to eat, sleep, or focus in class. She continued to see her attacker at school on a daily basis and was frightened of being anywhere near him.
Her parents decided to file for a Sexual Assault Protection Order on her behalf which would prohibit the attacker from contacting her. This “no contact” was particularly important as criminal charges were not filed by the prosecutor, meaning the SAPO provided the only protection. In order to obtain the SAPO, Z filed a petition with very detailed, graphic, and personal information about the assault. Two weeks later she appeared in court for a full hearing. Her attacker was also present at the five-hour long hearing.
During the hearing, she testified and was cross-examined about the assault and her behavior before and after the attack. The SAPO was granted; however, the judge could only grant it for a maximum of two years under the current law. She will have to go back to court at least one more time during her high school career and participate in this process again in order to get the SAPO renewed. It’s a daunting prospect for Z, but the SAPO does provide protection and some comfort. At this point she believes she will file again.
In this situation, the proposed amendments would have given the court discretion to grant the SAPO for a longer duration (e.g. for four years while Z and the attacker attend high school), providing some peace of mind for Z and her family.
Who supports this bill?
Organizations such as the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, Legal Voice, Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (WAPA), and the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ) also support this legislation.
How you can help
Contact the legislative hotline (360-786-7455) to urge your legislators to vote yes on these bills.
Contact your legislators to express your support. Find your legislator here.
Express your opinion and inform your friends on social media. KCSARC will offer Facebook posts regularly throughout the legislative session to make this easy for you to do. Follow us at: www.facebook.com/KCSARC.