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Domestic violence and non-domestic sexual assault can have serious consequences for both the victim and the perpetrator. The victim has to deal with the trauma of the assault, and the abuser will have a criminal record that could lead to unemployment, loss of child custody, jail time and heavy fines. This article will illustrate the process of both domestic violence and non-domestic sexual assault, and list options to ensure the victim’s safety.

In New Jersey, domestic violence is defined as the occurrence of homicide, assault, terroristic threat, kidnapping, false imprisonment, sexual assault, lewdness, criminal trespass or mischief, harassment or burglary upon a person who is 18 years old or over, an emancipated minor or any person who has been subject to DV by a spouse, a former spouse, any other person who is a present or former household member, or a person with whom the victim has a child in common.  Once the victim files a complaint and gets in contact with a family law attorney, the case will be brought to a judge or domestic violence hearing officer. If the judge or officer determines that the complaint falls within the guidelines of DV, a temporary restraining order (TRO) will be issued.  Next, the case will be scheduled for a final hearing within 10 days.  Both the victim and the abuser will testify at the final hearing, where it will be determined whether an act of DV occurred and, if so, what relief there will be for the victim.  If the judge/officer determines that an act of DV occurred, a final restraining order (FRO) will also be issued, and a copy will be given to the victim and abuser. There is no time limit as to how long this order lasts, but if the parties decide to get back together, the victim will have to withdraw the FRO in court and will also undergo an interview to make sure it is not a forced withdrawal.

Victims of sexual assault who do not fall under the category of a DV victim can file for an order of protection. This prohibits perpetrators from seeing or coming into contact with the victim, as well as stalking and online harassment. The Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA) allows sexual assault victims to file for a protective order without reporting to law enforcement or filing criminal charges. A protective order otherwise undergoes the same process as a domestic violence restraining order. A temporary protective order (TPO) is granted once the complaint is filed. Then, typically within 10 days, a final protective order hearing is held, at which the judge either grants a final protective order (FPO) or dismisses the case, ending the protections of the TPO.

After the case is resolved, some victims could potentially be at risk of assault or further harm by their abusers. There are several tools designed by certified medical professionals and psychologists that assess the risk of further violence occurring by asking questions that help evaluate the traits of the victim and the abuser. Some popular tools include the Danger Assessment (DA), Domestic Violence Screening Instrument (DVSI-R) and the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (SARA).  Additionally, the abuser will have to be screened for drug and alcohol abuse to determine their risk of further harming the victim. These tests all have different formats, but they ultimately have the same goal. They help victims come up with a detailed and realistic plan for their safety, help the criminal justice system determine bail amounts and degrees of security for different perpetrators and help treatment programs determine their curriculum.

Whether you have been the victim of domestic violence or non-domestic sexual assault, the experienced family law attorneys at Rotolo, Bozanian and Yi are ready to help you.  Contact the firm today to protect your rights and guard your safety.