Understanding Your Rights: A Guide for Sexual Assault Survivors (in DV cases)

Life after a domestic violence sexual assault can feel incredibly isolating. It’s hard to know what to do next, or if you will ever feel safe again. You don’t have to walk this path alone. A Washington State domestic violence sexual assault attorney can be an invaluable asset in your journey back. As you decide your next steps, consider this guide to help you understand your rights and the support available. 

Have You Been the Victim of a Sexual Assault in Washington State?

In Washington, the law clearly defines domestic violence and sexual assault, offering protections tailored to support survivors like you. In simple terms, domestic violence includes any harm or fear of harm by someone in your household or family, while sexual assault involves any non-consensual sexual act. 

If you’ve been the victim of a sexual assault by someone in your household, the first step in protecting your rights is reporting the assault to law enforcement. Taking the step to report what happened is incredibly brave. It’s also a very personal decision, and only you can decide if and when it’s right for you. If you have questions and need immediate support, RAINN has many resources to help you navigate your options. You can also call their 24-hour Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Your Legal Protection Following a Sexual Assault in Washington State

Washington laws aim to protect victims of sexual assault, help ensure your safety, and aid in your recovery following a domestic violence incident. Understanding these options can empower you to take steps toward healing and justice.

Protective Orders

In the days and weeks following a sexual assault, feeling safe again is vital. Washington State offers several types of protective orders designed to help you regain a sense of security.

Temporary Protection Orders (TPO): These orders are designed to provide immediate protection for survivors of sexual assault. You can obtain a TPO quickly, often without the abuser being present, which can help ensure your immediate safety. TPOs are typically issued during emergencies and last until a full court hearing for a more permanent order can occur.

Full Protection Orders: After a TPO, you may seek a Full Protection Order, which offers longer-term protection. This requires a court hearing, where both you and the alleged abuser have the opportunity to present your sides. Full Protection Orders can include specific provisions, such as no contact or a safe distance to be maintained, and can last for a set period or, in some cases, indefinitely.

To begin the process of obtaining a protective order, you can visit your local courthouse or contact a lawyer who specializes in domestic violence and sexual assault. They can guide you through the steps, help with paperwork, and offer support at the hearing. The Washington State Courts’ website also provides resources and forms necessary to apply for these orders. 

Washington State Victim Compensation Programs

Recovering from a sexual assault often involves more than just emotional healing–there can be significant financial burdens as well. Washington’s Victim Compensation Programs aim to ease this part of your journey by providing financial assistance for various needs related to your recovery.

Eligibility: To be eligible for compensation, you typically need to report the assault to law enforcement (with some exceptions for good cause) and apply for compensation within a certain timeframe after the crime. 

Covered Expenses: These programs can cover a wide range of expenses, including things like:

  • Medical and dental care
  • Mental health counseling
  • Lost wages if you are unable to work due to the assault
  • Funeral expenses if the assault leads to a fatality

While applying for victim compensation can seem daunting, resources are available to help you get the care you need. It may help to know that you’re not alone—there’s a whole community ready to support you. From counseling services to legal aid and advocacy groups, help is available. The Washington State Office of Crime Victim Advocacy is a great place to start, offering a directory of services designed to get the resources you need to keep moving forward.

Finding Your Way Through the Legal System

Not sure what to do next? Documenting everything, choosing the right lawyer, and understanding your options are crucial steps. Lawyers specializing in domestic violence and sexual assault are here to guide you, advocating for your rights and your peace of mind.

If you’re ready to discuss your legal options or need someone to guide you through the next steps, contact Jennifer today to learn more.