The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely brought a deluge of problems in our society. We see a surge of infected cases everyday, occupying our hospitals and health institutions. The State has imposed stay-home orders left and right, thereby affecting families and for some, including the Court Orders on them.
Fear of Coming Out As A Sexual Assault Victim During COVID-19
Do you fear coming out as a sexual assault victim today? We understand especially in these uncertain times. You are not alone. “As the novel coronavirus spread during the same month this year, experts saw 24 patients, a 43% decrease from 2019. They caution that the risk of intimate partner violence, including sexual assault, could increase as more people are forced inside because of shelter-in-place orders. A forensic exam, or rape kit, allows men and women to get medical attention and collect DNA evidence from their bodies, clothes and belongings. That evidence can be critical as victims enter the justice system.” Source here
“In cases of child sexual abuse or intimate partner sexual assault, victims or their family members may be pressured by the abuser to stay together as a family in the wake of the disaster; the victim may also have mixed feelings toward the perpetrator and may depend upon him; or may be told to shelter in place or self-quarantine in a home that is not safe. And attempts to manage so many other survival issues may take precedence. Additional barriers may include availability of services, confusion of roles and processes, and privacy needs.” – Source here
Info About Sexual Assault Protection Order
A Sexual Assault Protection Order is a civil order issued by a court at the request of a sexual assault victim or by someone else on his or her behalf. The order can require the person who harmed you to stay away from you, your home, school, work or other places you request, and to have no further contact with you.
You can learn more info and about the court forms for Sexual Assault Protection Order and file Petition here
Per Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP), a Sexual Assault Protection Order may also be obtained as part of a criminal case. If a victim reports the sexual assault to law enforcement and the assailant is being prosecuted, a judge may order the perpetrator to keep the assailant away from the victim when they are released from custody.
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Parenting Plan here
Child Support here
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Victims Come Forward Now
“Jennifer Pierce-Weeks, CEO of the International Association of Forensic Nurses, says ‘regardless of when an assault happens,’ victims should still come forward. She notes the recommended time frame for evidence collection if the victim is an adolescent or adult is 120 hours, or five days. In child abuse cases it is 72 hours, or three days. Mariá Balata, director of advocacy services for the Chicago rape crisis center Resilience, says the virus could impact victims who may delay going to hospital because they have other priorities during the crisis, including coping with a job loss or struggling to make their rent. Those priorities are coupled with conflicting messages about avoiding the hospital in an already-overwhelmed health care system.” Source here
Is It Safe With The Advocates
“When victims call advocacy groups, staff members can accompany them to hospitals for a forensic exam. But to protect their staff, some help people remotely, although this could be difficult as victims want in-person counseling during what could be the most traumatic event of their lives.
Sharla Jackson, a domestic violence and sexual assault resource prosecutor at the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, adds that in the face of the pandemic, prosecutors are giving victims the opportunity to choose when and where they meet with prosecutors, and reaching out to let them know the status of their cases, and if they have been delayed. This is because of court systems only doing emergency operations.” Excerpt from here
Virtual Courts On The Rise: Check Out Notices of Court Closures and Emergency Modifications To Operations in Washington
You could definitely use your best judgment when determining if folks should provide accompaniment and in-person services and working with advocates to determine risk. If they have colds, history of respiratory illnesses, compromised immune systems, or other health issues, they may not be the best candidate and will need to stay away from hospitals and prisons. There are minimum safety health protocols you must be informed about when making such decisions to meet them. It helps to take precautions.
It will also help if you speak to a knowledgeable and helpful legal counsel. Soriano Law LLC continues to help clients amidst the COVID-19 crisis. We are in Montesano (Grays Harbor County), but we also serve clients in Thurston County, Pacific County, Lewis County, Mason County, and Pierce County. You may reach out to us via phone at (360) 249-6174 and (360) 742-2817. You may also send email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via facebook / twitter at @SorianoLawLLC