The Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act 2015 has unanimously passed both houses of the New Jersey legislature and is currently awaiting approval by Governor Christie. The bill, sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Gabriela Mosquera, John McKeon, Daniel Benson, and Shavonda Sumter, would make restraining orders more accessible to victims of sexual assault.
Currently, restraining orders are available only to those victims whose abusers have already been tried and convicted in criminal court or to those who fit the criteria for a domestic abuse case, specifically having a previous or existing spousal or dating relationship. Approximately 75%-80% of sexual assault victims know the perpetrator, yet they often do not have the specific relationship that is legally required to obtain a restraining order. This new bills aims to eliminate those requirements and to provide victims in sexual assault cases the same protections as victims of domestic violence.
The bill would allow for an emergency order to be granted when necessary until a New Jersey Superior Court judge makes a final ruling on the duration and scope of the order. The restraining order would, among other things, prohibit the offender from entering the victim’s home or place of work, contacting the victim either by telephone or e-mail, or harassing the victim online. Violations of the order could result in criminal convictions and jail time.
“Simply seeing an abuser – whether he or she is a new acquaintance or an old friend – forces many sexual assault survivors to relive the trauma of having been violated, and current law says they have no option but to suffer in silence,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Every person in this state has a right to feel safe while going about his or her daily life. With this bill, we reaffirm our commitment to the notion that all residents of New Jersey should be able to seek the protection they need to live in peace.”
The bill passed the house on June 25, 2015 and it will likely become law. Once it does, it will be much easier for victims of sexual assault to receive a restraining order, but the process can still be complicated and overwhelming. If you are seeking a restraining order, it is important to have experienced, thoughtful representation as you work to feel safe and put your life back together. Contact the Rosenblum Law Firm for assistance making the process as smooth as possible.