What is a sexual assault protection order?
A sexual assault protection order is a court order that can protect you from an abuser if you are the victim of a “sexual assault offense.”*
* NE R.S. § 28-311.11(1)
What is the legal definition of a sexual assault offense?
A “sexual assault offense” includes (click on the term to read the actual statute or continue reading to see a “plain language” explanation of the crime):
- sexual assault;
- sexual contact or sexual penetration without consent; and
- sexual assault of a child.*
Sexual assault means that the abuser sexually “penetrates” you or exposes you to “sexual contact” (defined below):
- without your consent;
- while you were physically or mentally unable to resist or understand what was happening (and the abuser knew or should have known your condition); or
- while the abuser is 19 years old or older and you are between the ages of 12 and 16.**
Sexual contact occurs when an abuser intentionally does any of the following with the purpose of causing sexual arousal:
- touches your sexual or intimate body parts or the clothing covering your sexual or intimate body parts;
- causes you to touch his/her sexual or intimate body parts or the clothing covering his/her sexual or intimate body parts; or
- touches a child with his/her sexual or intimate body parts on any part of the child’s body.***
Sexual penetration means sexual intercourse, including oral sex, anal intercourse, or any invasion (even a small one) to any part of your body or the abuser’s body. Sexual penetration also includes any object that the abuser uses to penetrate your genital or anal openings in a way that cannot be reasonably considered as being for medical or health purposes. Sexual penetration does not have to include the discharge of semen.****
* NE R.S. § 28-311.11(12)
** NE R.S. § 28-319(1), 28-320(1)
*** NE R.S. § 28-318(5)
**** NE R.S. § 28-318(6)
What happens when I apply for a sexual assault protection order?
When you apply for a sexual assault protection order, there are three things that may happen:
- The judge may sign the protection order “ex parte,” which means without a hearing where both parties are present and before the other party receives notice. A judge may grant your ex parte order if s/he believes that you would suffer severe harm, loss, or damage before there could be a hearing with both you and the abuser;
- The judge may decide not to give you an ex parte order and instead order you and the abuser to come to court for a hearing – at that hearing, you would have to make your case as to why you need the order; or
- The judge may choose to deny the protection order without a hearing if it appears from your petition that you do not qualify for the requested order.*
If you get the ex parte order, the order is then served to the abuser and s/he has 5 days to request what is called a “show-cause hearing” to present his/her evidence and ask that the order be dismissed. At this hearing, the abuser must prove to the judge why the order should not remain in effect and you will have to prove why you should keep the order. If the abuser requests a show-cause hearing, the judge will schedule the hearing within 30 days and will notify you and the harasser of the court date.*
Note: If you want the abuser to be prohibited from having a firearm, the judge must hold a protection order hearing. You, as the victim, can request this hearing if the abuser does not make the request.**
How long does a sexual assault protection order last?
If the judge does not grant your ex parte sexual assault protection order, you may still have a chance to return to court for a final order. The abuser must be served with notice of the case. If the abuser requests a hearing, the courts will schedule a hearing within 14 days of service so that you have a chance to prove that you need a final sexual assault protection order. If the judge grants you an order at that hearing, the order will remain in effect for one year.*
If the judge grants an ex parte sexual assault protection order, the abuser must be served with a copy of that order and have a chance to request a hearing. If the abuser requests the hearing, the judge will use the hearing to decide whether to cancel your order or continue it for one year. If the abuser does not request a hearing within 5 days of being served with the protection order (or if the judge grants you an order at that hearing), the order will remain in effect for one year without having any further court hearings.*
In either case, if the abuser doesn’t request the show-cause hearing, you would not have to face the abuser in court.
* NE R.S. § 28-311.11(7)
How can a sexual assault protection order help me?
In a sexual assault protection order, the judge can order that the abuser not:
- place any limits on you or your freedom;
- harass, threaten, assault, molest, attack, or otherwise disturb your peace; and
- telephone, contact, or otherwise communicate with you.*
* NE R.S. § 28-311.11(1)