The Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA)
In New Jersey, a groundbreaking law has gone into effect as of May 2016. The Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA), allows for victims of non-consensual sexual assault to file for a protective order against the person that assaulted them. Non-consensual sexual assault is defined as non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness, or any attempt at such conduct. This law now holds that if there is a sexual assault on campus, a student may file for a protective order against their attacker even if they were not formerly in a relationship and/or had no prior dating relationship with the offender. Additionally, a protection order may be applied for, even if there are no criminal charges filed against the person who assaulted them.
This act not only enables the protection of adults against a sexual assailant but also to victims that are minors who have been assaulted. Something very unique in this act is if the victim is under 18 years old or has a developmental disability then the parents or guardian of that victim may file for the order, allowing for a large range of victims to request for protective orders.
Previous to the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act there is a similar law known as the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA), which protects a victim against violence of a spouse, partner in a dating relationship, or household member. This act limited the option of filing a restraining order specifically to victims that have had a prior relationship with their sexual assaulter. In effect, victims that did not have an existing connection or communications with an offender, had no means of receiving the protection that they were seeking. With SASPA going into effect, the option of protective relief for a sexual assault survivor will be much more accessible to a wider range of non-consensual sexual assault victims.
Similar to a regular restraining order that can be filed in a domestic violence incident, a victim through SASPA first obtains a Temporary Protective Order and then applies for a Final Protective Order, which is filed in the Superior Court. The following are factors a judge must find for a final protective order 1) one or more acts of non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or any attempt at such conduct at the alleged victim 2) the possibility of future risk of the safety or well-being of the alleged victim. This order can provide immediate relief to a survivor of sexual assault and prohibits the pursuant from any and all forms of contact and communication with the sufferer. If the accused is found to be guilty of non-consensual sexual assault then a Final Protective Order can be issued. A final protective order will protect a victim’s well being from the possibility of danger from the same assailant and the possibility of future risk of any contact, communication, stalking, and harassment, including cyber-bullying. Once a final order is granted, no fingerprinting is required and there is no seizure of weapons warranted with this act. In the new act during the hearing, the Judge will not take into consideration whether the victim or the respondent was intoxicated, the manner or dress of the victim, or the absence of physical injury.
This new act will allow for the protection of a much greater amount of sexual assault victims than before. The greatest impact that this law will have on in New Jersey is that it will reduce the separation that left victims of non-consensual sexual assault who did not have domestic relationships with their attacker without emergency protection in the form of a restraining order.
Our offices frequently represent Rutgers University students in criminal matters including domestic violence charges, if you feel you’ve been a victim of Sexual Assault, or have been served a Sexual Assault Protection order against you, please contact our law office.