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Civil Justice Practitioners
Safety and Protection Remedies
Sexual assault often shatters a victim's sense of physical safety for years to come. Mental health research demonstrates that sexual assault victims routinely suffer as high or higher rates of posttraumatic stress and other anxiety disorders as do victims of other violent crimes. Planning for victims' safety and protection may help to alleviate some of this anxiety.
Courts' civil protection orders, criminal no-contact provisions, and other legal structures that proscribe any future direct or indirect contact between the victim and the perpetrator are essential. Civil protective orders may insulate victims from physical harm and, in some jurisdictions, provide for relocation costs and medical expenses. Although most civil restraining order statutes require a familial or intimate partner relationship, in some jurisdictions civil protection orders are available to victims of non-intimate partner sexual assault. Because of their expedited application process and speed of entry, these civil orders are easier for victims to secure and more likely to be pursued.42 Protective order hearings in particular may be speedier and more comfortable for victims than other avenues for holding the accused accountable. They tend to be resolved within 2 weeks, instead of the 1 to 2 years a criminal prosecution takes or the 2 to 4 months required for a school or employment disciplinary process. Filing procedures, court personnel, and hearings for protective orders are often more victim friendly than criminal procedures and other types of protection orders because the legislation has often been drafted with victims (albeit domestic violence victims) in mind, and rules of evidence are applied with flexibility to allow plaintiffs and defendants to speak freely. In Massachusetts, for example, there is no right to a jury trial in such proceedings and while there is a general right to cross-examination, the judge may limit cross-examination for good cause.
Safety remedies may also be sought at educational, residential, and other institutions where a perpetrator and victim may intermingle (e.g., schools, offices, factories, apartment buildings, reservations, places of worship). Finally, criminal courts may issue stay-away orders when a defendant is arrested or arraigned.