Protective orders now available for sexual assault

Danielle Gehr

UPDATE: Branstad signed SF 401 into law May 10. The law allows for a protective order against an accused abuser and was dubbed the Sexual Assault Protective Order.

PREVIOUS: After passing through the Iowa House of Representatives and Senate, a bill that would benefit sexual assault survivors is set to be signed by Gov. Terry Branstad Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. in his formal office at the Iowa State Capitol Building. The bill dubbed the Sexual Assault Protective Order, if signed, will provide additional options to sexual assault victims as well as increase safety.

Previously, in Iowa, a survivor has to have been in a relationship defined under domestic abuse codes to receive protective order in the civil legal system. This will change with the signing of this bill. 

This order mirrors those implemented in 34 other states and the District of Columbia. The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (IowaCASA) is a main supporter of this bill and has been for the past 10 years. They will be joined by survivors, advocates and allies at the bill’s signing. 

“Sexual assault protective orders are a crucial step forward for the healing and safety of survivors,” says Beth Barnhill, Executive Director of IowaCASA. “We are grateful to the survivors who shared their stories with legislators about the impact this law could have.”

One of these survivors is Elizabeth Huebsch who shared her experience with the Daily before the Senate’s unanimous vote. 

“A civil protective order for sexual abuse is going to benefit many Iowans seeking protection from the abuser. Often times the abuser is someone you know and trust and may cross paths with,” Huebsch said. 

During the time following her assault, Huebsch couldn’t file a protective order against the abuser since she was never in a relationship with him. Instead, she felt unsafe and had to see him at many work events. 

Now she will stand in Branstad’s office and watch a bill that she contributed her time and effort into lobbying for get signed into law. The bill will go into effect July 1, 2017.

“This protective order will now provide survivors with some sense of safety not having to worry if the abuser is going to show up at places/events. It’s also a huge relief as a survivor not having to turn to people in the community to protect you,” Huebsch said.