Megan did what they tell you to do after a sexual assault.
She told a friend. She sought counseling. She reported the assault to law enforcement and university administrators. And later, when she continued to see her assaulter on campus and grew fearful, she petitioned for a civil sexual assault protection order (SAPO).
At trial, she provided uncontested evidence of the assault—including witness statements of people who saw her crying and shaking moments after the encounter—and explained that she was afraid of him since her only interaction with him was the assault.
But the court denied Megan’s petition for a protection order. The reasons are troubling: that she had no reasonable fear of future dangerous acts by her assaulter, and that it was “peculiar” that she had waited several months before seeking the protection order.
The SAPO statute is simple and straight-forward, with the sole requirement of proof being a single incident of sexual assault. The statute requires no additional evidence of reasonable fear of future dangerous acts because, in the Legislature’s words, even a single sexual assault inflicts “humiliation, terror, and degradation on victims.”
The trial court’s interpretation of this statute can have dangerous and lasting effects, as it creates barriers between survivors and protection where the legislature intended for none to exist. That is why Legal Voice—along with our allies at the Northwest Justice Project and cooperating attorney Kymberly Evanson of Pacifica Law Group—filed a “friend of the court” brief in this case, M.R. v. M.D., encouraging the Court of Appeals to reverse this decision and interpret the SAPO statute as it was intended: to ensure protection is readily available for survivors.