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Politics & Government

State legislature closes gap in protective order system

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

Delawareans may soon be able to seek protective orders against anyone who has sexually assaulted them – not just relatives and romantic partners.

Under current Delaware law, victims of sexual assault can only seek protective orders if they are related to or have dated the perpetrator. But as state Senator Nicole Poore noted during a Senate floor debate Thursday, people assaulted by coworkers, roommates or strangers don’t have that option.

“If you are not related, or you have never dated the perpetrator, you currently have no avenue for civil protections," she said.

Senate lawmakers addressed that gap, passing Senator Poore’s bill allowing sexual assault victims to seek protective orders against any alleged perpetrator, whether or not they reported the assault to law enforcement. Most rapes are never prosecuted.

Victims of sexual assault by non-relatives would get a hearing in Superior Court. Victims of abuse by relatives or partners seek an order in Delaware Family Court.

Representatives from Superior Court also expect they will need staff to help victims navigate protective order process

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate; it passed with only one “no” vote in the House two weeks ago.