Protection orders requested for sexual assault victims

Victims of sexual assault could receive civil protection orders under a bill heard by the Judiciary Committee Feb. 23.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist29' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Kate Bolz'>Sen. Kate Bolz</a>
Sen. Kate Bolz

Two categories of protection orders currently are granted: harassment and domestic violence. To qualify for a harassment protection order, a victim must show a history of continued harassment. A domestic violence protection order applies only to a victim in familial or dating relationship.

LB178, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz, would create a protection order specifically for victims of sexual assault, who she said often would not meet the criteria for either order because many assaults are a one-time incident between two people who have no relationship to each other.

If passed, the bill would address this gap in civil protection orders, Bolz said.

“According to statistics from the Nebraska Crime Commission, there were 653 forcible rapes in Nebraska in 2015,” she said. “Keep in mind, not all sexual assaults are reported. Victims of sexual assault exist and deserve protection.”

The bill would enable a victim of sexual assault to file for a sexual assault protection order against their assailant, which would prohibit him or her from harassing, threatening, assaulting, molesting, attacking or otherwise disturbing the peace of the victim. The order also would prohibit all communication with the victim.

A sexual assault protection order would remain in effect for two years from the date of issuance. Any person who knowingly violates such an order would be guilty of a Class I misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both. A second offense within a two-year period or a third offense, whenever committed, would be categorized as a Class IV felony, punishable by up to two years in prison with 12 months of post-release supervision, a $10,000 fine, or both.

Representing the Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Stephanie Huddle testified in support of the bill. She said 1 in 5 women and 1 in 75 men are raped in their lifetime. The bill would provide a form of relief for sexual assault survivors and address a severe gap in state law, Huddle said.

“Most victims of crimes can avoid the crime scene but that isn’t possible for sexual assault victims because the crime scene is their body,” she said. “By passing LB178, Nebraska would join 33 other states in helping sexual assault victims heal from the horrendous crimes that have been perpetrated against them.”

Madalyn McKeone, a freshman at Creighton University, also supported the bill. She was sexually assaulted by a man she did not know and was unable to receive any protection from him because her assault did not meet current criteria for civil protection orders in Nebraska.

“[This bill] would give victims the confidence to stand up to their perpetrators and give voice to others,” McKeone said. “It’s horrifying that because I didn’t know him beforehand or that he didn’t harass me for months afterward, that I can’t get protection as easily.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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