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Getting a Sexual Assault Protective Order: What happens in court?

Protective Orders

This article explains what usually happens in court when you apply for a Sexual Assault Protective Order.

Here, learn about going to court to get a Sexual Assault Protective Order (SAPO). The respondent may be there. The survivor may have to testify and be cross-examined. If the respondent does not appear, the SAPO may be granted by default. A SAPO is a civil legal matter distinct from criminal charges.

This article was written by Crime Victims at Texas Legal Services Center.

Will I have to testify in court?

  • If the respondent comes to the hearing and does not agree to the protective order, you will likely have to testify before a judge and the respondent.
  • If the respondent is self-represented, they may ask you questions.

I’m scared of the respondent, will I have to sit next to him in court?

If the respondent comes to the hearing, you will most likely see each other. You should ask the court’s staff for a safe space to wait for your hearing. You can also request that the respondent be held until you have left the building when the hearing is over.

I don’t think he’s going to come to court. What happens then?

If the respondent does not show up at the set court date, the judge may decide to grant you a protective order by “default.” The court may want to make a record of the default and may ask you questions about the order you are requesting on the record.

What happens if the judge denies my Sexual Assault Protective Order?

If the judge denies your Sexual Assault Protective Order, the temporary order you were given will be dismissed.

Will the respondent be arrested for rape if I get a sexual assault protective order?

The protective order is a civil lawsuit, and criminal charges are separate criminal court actions. Each case has different requirements, and one does not affect the other. But if a record is made in the protective order hearing, the criminal court can introduce your previous sworn testimony into evidence.

For this reason, it is important to contact an attorney before filing a protective order. It is also important to review your statements before the court and make sure you are consistent with each one. Court can be stressful, especially if your abuser is present. The more you review your statement before court, the better prepared you will be.

Also note, it is OK to say you don’t remember something if you really don’t remember it. Attorneys in court may ask you for many details that you cannot remember. It is better to say you don’t remember than to try and guess.

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