Sexual assault victims better protected under plan passed by Senate

Victims of sexual assault seeking protection orders would get increased protections under legislation sponsored by Sen. Steve Litzow, passed today by the Washington State Senate. The proposal would allow courts to set longer terms instead of the current maximum of two years and reduces burdens to continue existing orders.

“This legislation is a huge step forward to increase critical protections for sexual assault victims,” said Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director for King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. “We want to thank Senator Litzow for sponsoring this important legislation.”

Sexual assault protection orders are available through civil courts with testimony from the victim, which can last only up to two years. The proposal, passed unanimously, brings sexual assault protection orders in-line with other orders including for domestic violence, stalking and harassment.

“Current legal protections for victims of sexual assault do not provide enough safeguards for as many people as they should,” said Litzow, of Mercer Island. “Protection orders are very effective, but obtaining them can be difficult for victims. Two-year orders are often inadequate because of the continued risk and fear of harm that still remains after the protection period expires.”

Violation of a protection order results in criminal charges against the attacker. In King County criminal charges for sexual assault were filed less than 25 percent in cases where victims sought a sexual assault protection order.

In 2014 Washington state programs served more than 12,000 victims of sexual assault, with roughly 3,800 in King County.