On May 7, 2015, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to advance the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015 (A4078/S2686), which will expand the provision of restraining orders to survivors of sexual assault. In preparation for the next steps in the legislative process, NJCASA provides some additional answers in a follow-up to our first post on Frequently Asked Questions about this critical piece of legislation.
How is this different from stalking or domestic violence restraining order laws?
This legislation provides an opportunity for victims of sexual assault to apply for a restraining order. The act in this case is one of sexual assault. The relief would protect the victim from a) further nonconsensual sexual contact; b) being in intentional close proximity to the perpetrator; c) contact (written, phone, or through third parties) from the perpetrator; d) stalking; e) harassment, including cyber-harassment; and f) any other relief the court deems appropriate.
In which courts will sexual assault restraining order applications be considered?
The Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015 provides sexual assault victims with access to the same Superior Court judges that issue domestic violence restraining orders. Due to the sensitive nature of the crime, and the relationships that often exist between victim and perpetrator (75-80% of sexual assault survivors know their offender), Superior Court judges are best equipped to make decisions in response to applications for sexual assault restraining orders.
Will the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015 deter survivors from pressing criminal charges and seeking prosecution of their offender?
There is no evidence to suggest that by expanding a survivor’s access to the protections offered by a restraining order, that New Jersey would simultaneously be decreasing their likelihood of seeking prosecution. In fact, a trauma-informed, multidisciplinary approach to serving survivors would suggest that by increasing their access to, and trust of, the judicial process, survivors may be more likely to move forward with a criminal complaint against their perpetrator.
Who can I contact to get more information about this legislation?
NJCASA is recognized as the lead advocacy organization for this legislation. Questions can be directed to Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609.631.4450 x 1205.