OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Calissa Knox thought of the beach as a peaceful escape until the man who sexually abused her moved a block away from it.
Since then, the 19-year-old has returned to court to file for a sexual assault protection order against him for the second time. A measure proposed by Washington state lawmakers would allow a judge to make such orders permanent.
Now, if victims want to renew an order requiring assailants to stay away, they must reappear in court every two years. Victims are not guaranteed to have the same judge and are likely to have to face the offender.
“That’s the worst part,” Knox said. “Just when I think I’m making progress and moving on, I have to see him and relive the whole thing all over again.”
Knox said she was sexually abused for a year by a family member when she was 4.
The Associated Press normally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Knox said she wanted to explain the trauma that victims typically go through by having to repeat the renewal process.
“It is a really deep form of hurting someone else and is never really something that goes away,” she said. “There are a lot of feelings and emotions that can last a whole lifetime.”
Republican Sen. Joe Fain, sponsor of the legislation, said Senate Bill 5256 aligns sexual assault protection orders with other orders for crimes such as domestic violence, stalking or harassment.
“There’s no reason why these victims should be treated any differently,” Fain said. “He or she should have the opportunity to protect themselves permanently, not just temporarily.”
The Republican-controlled Senate passed the measure on a 43-6 vote last month and it now awaits a possible floor vote in the Democratic-controlled House.
As of 2015, 28 states allow sexual assault civil protection orders, according to the American Bar Association. Of those, at least two allow them to be permanent — Colorado and Montana.
In Washington state, about 3,314 sexual assault protection orders were filed over a six-year period, according to the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center.
Laura Shaver testified on behalf of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Washington Defender Association at a hearing last month calling the lifetime protection “too burdensome.”
Shaver said the bill tries to mirror the domestic violence statute but the two types of orders have “big differences.” Instead, she suggested changing the renewal period to five years.
She did not return calls and emails from The Associated Press seeking further explanation.
Fain said the proposal has stalled in previous years because of gun rights concerns.
His measure would allow a person targeted in a sexual assault protection order to avoid having to forfeit their firearms indefinitely if they can prove to a court that they are no longer a threat to the victim or others.
“If the offender can prove they are no longer a threat to the victim, they should have the right to access their guns or weapons,” Fain said.
With the added protection for both the victim and the offender, Fain said he is hopeful that the bill will end up on the governor’s desk this year.
“I just want the sense to know I’ll be OK on my own,” said Knox. “Even if it’s just going to the beach.”