Rape: Relationship Required?

Molly Coffey, KLJ Senior Staff Editor[1]

In the United States, one out of every five women will be raped during her lifetime.[2] That’s twice as high as a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer, and twenty-five times higher than her chances of dying from a car accident.[3] Still, while states offer health care and traffic safety laws, states often do not provide protective orders for victims of rape. For one out of every five women, such a provision would provide necessary protection and comfort.

Protective orders are civil restraining orders that a victim of a specified act can obtain without pressing criminal charges.[4] All states have a protective order statute for domestic violence.[5] To qualify for a domestic violence protective order, the victim must have some sort of relationship with the perpetrator.[6] For example, in Kentucky, a victim of rape can obtain a domestic violence protective order if they have lived with, have a child, or were married to the attacker.[7] Thus, for someone who is raped by a person outside of these relationship categories, an additional protective order statute is necessary. However, in Kentucky,[8] as well as Alabama,[9] Idaho,[10] Connecticut,[11] Delaware,[12] Louisiana,[13] Mississippi,[14] New Jersey,[15] New York,[16] Pennsylvania,[17] Rhode Island,[18] and West Virginia,[19] these additional protective orders do not exist.

Adding an additional protective order statute for victims of rape and sexual assault would make a tremendous impact in the amount of civil protection available to rape victims. Most rape victims know their attacker, but even though victims know their attacker, they are not eligible for domestic violence protective orders because most rapes are committed by a friend or acquaintance.[20] Sexual assault by a friend or acquaintance is not classified as domestic violence, and is therefore not covered by domestic violence orders.[21] Even in states that provide protective orders for those who are abused by a dating partner, a dating relationship must be established.[22] A dating relationship requires the victim to show an ongoing engagement and excludes casual acquaintances.[23] For example, in Alabama, a dating relationship requires frequent, intimate, association that is not “causal.”[24] Thus rape victims generally know their attacker, and could effectively use a protective order, but currently do not qualify for protection.

Due to the high incidence of rape and the fact that most victims know their attacker, states should adopt separate protective orders for victims of rape and sexual assault. For one out of five women, it could make all the difference.

[1] J.D. expected May 2016.

[2]Soraya Chemaly, 50 Actual Facts About Rape, Dec. 26, 2005, Huffington Post,  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/50-facts-rape_b_2019338.html.

[3]The Odds of Dying From…, National Safety Council, http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/injury_and_death_statistics/Documents/2014-Injury-Facts-43.pdf.

[4] Protective Orders, Women’s Law.org,  http://www.womenslaw.org/laws_state_type.php?id=523&state_code=LA.

[5] See Know the Laws, Women’s Law.Org, http://www.womenslaw.org/laws_state.php?state_code=LA (explaining the protective orders available for domestic violence in each state).

[6] Id.

[7] KRS § 403.710-20.

[8] KRS § 403.010 (no sexual assault protective order).

[9] Al. Code § 30-5B-1 (no sexual assault protective order).

[10] I.C. § 39-6303 (no sexual assault protective order).

[11] Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 46b-15 (no sexual assault protective order).

[12] Del. Code Ann. tit. 10, § 1041 (no sexual assault protective order).

[13] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 46:2131 (no sexual assault protective order).

[14] Miss. Code Ann. § 93-21-3 (no sexual assault protective order).

[15] N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:25-19 (no sexual assault protective order).

[16] N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act. § 812 (no sexual assault protective order).

[17] Pa. Code Stat. Ann. 23 § 6102 (no sexual assault protective order).

[18] R.I. Gen. Laws. Ann. 15-15-1 (no sexual assault protective order).

[19] W.Va. Code Ann. 48-27-204 (no sexual assault protective order).

[20] The Offenders, RAINN, https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-offenders; Most Victims Know Their Attacker, National Institute of Justice, Oct. 1, 2008, http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/rape-sexual-violence/campus/Pages/know-attacker.aspx.

[21] See Know the Laws, Women’s Law.Org, http://www.womenslaw.org/laws_state_type.php?id=523&state_code=LA (lists all state domestic violence protective order relationship requirements); KRS § 403.710-20 (an example of a state domestic violence protective order that does not cover friends or acquaintances).

[22] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 784.046 (Florida provides a separate protective order for victims of dating violence but defines dating violence as a continuing and significant relationship).

[23]Del. Code Ann. tit. 10 § 1041(2)(b) (“neither a casual acquaintanceship nor ordinary fraternization between 2 individuals in business or social contexts shall be deemed to constitute a substantive dating relationship. Factors to consider for a substantive dating relationship may include the length of the relationship, or the type of relationship, or the frequency of interaction between the parties.”).

[24] Al. Code § 30-5B-2.