HB 2033 / SB 6151 Why KCSARC is Proposing Change

Improving protections for sexual assault victims

Since KCSARC’s CourtWatch program was founded in 2010, an area of focus for has been Sexual Assault Protection Orders (SAPOs). Over the past 6 years, we’ve tracked nearly 600 SAPO cases filed in King County Superior Court, and are in a unique position to be able to identify patterns and areas where improvement is needed.

Through monitoring SAPO cases, we’ve identified two parts of the statute that need to be changed to ensure that victims of sexual assault receive better protection under the law, and the same protections afforded to victims of domestic violence, stalking, or harassment.

First, the two-year limit on SAPOs should be amended. Under the existing law, the court is prevented from considering the nature and circumstances of the assault when determining how long the order should be in effect, and is limited to two years. The risk posed and fear of harm often remains after that two-year period of protection expires. This proposed amendment would give the courts more discretion to consider the unique facts in each case when determining the duration of a SAPO.

Additionally, the burden of proof when a victim seeks to get the SAPO reissued needs to be shifted to the respondent, as it is with all other types of protection orders. It is a difficult process to get the order entered in the first place: in order to obtain a SAPO, victims have to file petitions that include very graphic, detailed, and personal information about the assault. When they appear in court for the full hearing, the proceedings often resemble a trial where victims testify and are cross-examined, sometimes for several hours, about the assault and their behavior before and after the attack. Under the current law, a victim who desires continued protection will have to repeat this process of going back to court and re-presenting their case every two years for as long as they desire protection.

Passage of HB 2033 / SB 6151 will improve the administration of justice and it will make the process more accessible and consistent with the processes for all other types of protection orders. Urge your legislator to vote for these bills to improve protections for sexual assault victims. 

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