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Know the Laws: New Jersey

UPDATED June 8, 2016

Sexual Assault Restraining Orders

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A sexual assault restraining order (also known as a sexual assault protective order) is a civil order that provides protection to victims of sexual assault and other forms of non-consensual sexual contact.  However, if the person who sexually assaulted you is a current or former intimate partner, you would file for a domestic violence restraining order (not a sexual assault restraining order).

Basic info and definitions

back to topWhat is a sexual assault restraining order?

Similar to a domestic violence restraining order, a sexual assault restraining order (also known as a sexual assault protective order) is a court order that can protect you from an abuser if you are the victim of actual or attempted nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness.*  If you do not qualify for a domestic violence restraining order because you do not have the required relationship to the abuser, then you may qualify for a sexual assault restraining order.

* NJSA § 2C:14-14(a)(1)

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back to topWhat is the legal definition of nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, and lewdness?

To qualify for a sexual assault restraining order, you must be the victim of actual or attempted nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness by someone who is not a current or former intimate partner.

Sexual contact is an intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of your or the abuser’s sexual organs, genital area, anal area, inner thigh, groin, buttock or breast for the purpose of degrading or humiliating you or sexually arousing or sexually gratifying the abuser.

Sexual penetration is vaginal intercourse, oral sex (cunnilingus or fellatio) or anal intercourse between you and the abuser or insertion of the hand, finger or object into the anus or vagina either by the abuser or due to the abuser’s instruction.

Lewdness means exposing one’s genitals for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the abuser or of any other person.*

* NJSA § 2C:14-14(a)(1)

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back to topWhat types of sexual assault restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

In New Jersey, there are two types of sexual assault restraining orders, temporary and final.

Temporary ex parte restraining orders
When you file a petition for a sexual assault restraining order, you can ask for a temporary ex parte restraining order to be issued immediately.  A judge can grant you a temporary order if the judge decides it is necessary to protect your safety and well-being.*  The judge can issue this order without the abuser having prior notice or being present at the hearing.  The hearing for the final order will be scheduled within 10 days of filing your petition.*1  Your temporary order (if you have one) will remain in effect until a judge of the Superior Court issues a decision on your petition (either granting a final order or dismissing your temporary order).*2

Final sexual assault restraining orders
After a hearing in which you both have an opportunity to tell your side of the story through testimony, evidence, and witnesses, a judge can grant you a final restraining order.  The judge can only grant it after the judge finds that the abuser committed or attempted to commit an act of nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness against you or the abuser admits to the behavior.*3  The final sexual assault restraining order remains in effect until the judge says otherwise.  In other words, there is no set end date to a sexual assault restraining order.*4

* NJSA § 2C:14-15(a)
*1 NJSA § 2C:14-16(a)
*2 NJSA § 2C:14-15(d)
*3 NJSA § 2C:14-16(e)
*4 NJSA § 2C:14-16(i)

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back to topHow can a sexual assault restraining order help me?

A temporary or final restraining order can order the abuser not to:

  • commit or attempt to commit any future act of nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness against you;
  • enter your or your family or household members’ residence, property, school, or place of employment,
  • come near any specific place identified in the order that you or your family or household members frequently go to;
  • have any contact with you or other people named in the order;
  • personally, or through another person,  start any communication that is likely to cause annoyance or alarm with you, your family members, or their employers, employees, or fellow workers, an employee or volunteer of a sexual assault response organization that is providing services to you, or others with whom communication would be likely to cause annoyance or alarm to you. The type of communication could include personal, written, or telephone contact; or contact through electronic devices;
  • stalk or follow you or threaten to harm, stalk, or follow you; and
  • commit or attempt to commit an act of harassment, including an act of cyber-harassment, against you.*

Note: For either a temporary or final order, the judge can also order any other relief that s/he decides is appropriate.**

* NJSA §§ 2C:14-15(e); 2C:14-16(e),(f)
** NJSA §§ 2C:14-16(e)(6),(f)(5)

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Getting the order

back to topWho can get a sexual assault restraining order?

You can file for a sexual assault restraining order if a person committed or attempted to commit an act of nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration or lewdness against you and you do not have an intimate relationship with the offender.  (If the abuser is a former or current intimate partner, then you would file for a domestic violence restraining order instead.) To file for a sexual assault restraining order, you do not need to have any specific relationship with the abuser; – s/he can be a stranger, a co-worker, an acquaintance, etc.*  

If the victim is under the age of 18 or has a developmental disability, a parent or guardian can file for a sexual assault restraining order on the victim's behalf.**   However, if the abuser is a minor (and unemancipated), you would instead file a complaint under a proceeding that deals with juvenile delinquency - see section 2A:4A-30 on our NJ Statutes page to read the law.  If the abuser is the parent, guardian, or other person having custody and control over the minor victim, the law requires that you instead report the abuse to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families for investigation and possible legal action.  You may then petition in the Superior Court for a protective order on behalf of the applicant and the (unemancipated) minor victim as part of the legal proceedings related to child abuse and neglect.***

* See NJSA § 2C:14-14(a)(1)
** NJSA § 2C:14-14(a)(2)(a),(b)
*** NJSA § 2C:14-14(b)

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back to topWhat are the steps involved with getting a sexual assault restraining order?

The steps to get a sexual assault restraining order are similar to the steps to get a domestic violence restraining order, but you may fill out different paperwork.  If you have questions, you can call the clerk of court or talk to a lawyer.  You can find the contact information for local courthouses on the NJ Courthouse Locations page and for lawyers on the NJ Finding a Lawyer page.

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back to topWhat if the abuser violates the order?

If someone purposely or knowingly violates a sexual assault restraining order, s/he could be committing the crime of contempt and guilty of a "disorderly persons offense."  If when violating the order, s/he also committed a crime or a disorderly persons offense, then s/he can be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.*  

You can call 911 immediately and the police may arrest the abuser.  If the police do not have sufficient facts to arrest the abuser, you can file a criminal complaint in municipal court.**

* NJSA §§ 2C:14-18(a); 2C:29-9(d)
** NJSA § 2C:14-18(b)

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