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Victim’s Assistance and Survivor Protection Act (VASPA)—Protection for Victims


The Victim’s Assistance and Survivor Protection Act amended the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015 to provide greater protection to victims. As of January 1, 2024, this law extends to victims of stalking and cyber-harassment who do not fall under existing domestic violence laws due to the absence of a particular relationship with the offender. The law still allows victims of sexual offenses to obtain a protective order. The law can be found at N.J.S.A. 2C:14-13 et seq.

What is a protective order?

Protective orders aim to ensure the safety of victims of a sexual offense, stalking, or cyber-harassment. A protective order is a court order that forbids an offender from having any contact with a victim. Contact includes in-person, written, electronic, telephonic, or through third parties. The offender is barred from contacting the victim’s family, household members, employer, or co-workers, and prohibited from entering the victim’s home, school, or job.

A protective order also prohibits an offender from committing any future offense against the victim. The protective order tells the offender that they cannot stalk (keep an eye on) or follow the victim. The offender may not threaten to stalk or follow the victim. The offender may not harass the victim in person or online by contacting them through social media or other ways online.

A protective order is a two-step process. First, a temporary protective order is granted. Second, a hearing or trial is held approximately 10 days later to determine if a final protective order should be entered to provide the victim with permanent protection from abuse. More information about how to get a protective order is described below.

Who can get a protective order?

A protective order is like a domestic violence restraining order, except the victim does not need to have a relationship with the offender. A protective order extends beyond traditional familial or dating relationships. This law allows a victim to get a protective order even if the victim and offender were strangers, neighbors, or co-workers. If the offender is a stranger, the victim will need to give the court some identifying information so the court can serve the order (make sure the person receives the legal document) on the offender.

Victims under the age of 18 or those with a developmental disability must have their parent or guardian file the protective order on their behalf. Protective orders cannot be filed against offenders under the age of 18. Any offense committed by a minor offender can be reported to the police.

The court should enter a protective order when it is likely that the order will protect the safety and well-being of a victim.

Victims who are eligible for a domestic violence restraining order cannot concurrently obtain a protective order. If the offender who committed the offense meets the criteria for a domestic violence restraining order—such as being a current or former spouse, having a child in common, dating, or having previously lived together—the victim should file a domestic violence restraining order instead of a protective order. The level of protection provided by the court is the same regardless of whether a protective order or domestic violence restraining order is entered.

What is a sexual offense?

A sexual offense can be one of the three following crimes: sexual penetration, criminal sexual contact, or lewdness. Even attempted touching, exposure, or penetration are covered under this law.

Criminal sexual contact includes intentional touching of the victim’s intimate parts by the offender (or by the victim at the offender’s instruction), whether directly or through clothing. The purpose of the touching must be to degrade or humiliate the victim or for the sexual excitement of the offender. Intimate parts include sexual organs, the genital or anal area, inner thigh, groin, buttock, or breast.

Sexual penetration is vaginal or anal intercourse, oral sex, or the insertion of an object, hand, or finger into the anus or vagina by the offender (or at the offender’s instruction).

Lewdness is the intentional exposure of the offender’s genitals for the purpose of sexual satisfaction for the offender or another person.

What is stalking?

Stalking involves repeated conduct directed at or toward a person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer emotional distress. This includes various actions such as repeatedly maintaining proximity to the victim, following, monitoring, or threatening the victim. This behavior could be done either by the offender themselves, through a third party, or through technology.

What is cyber-harassment?

Cyber-harassment involves conduct occurring online or via electronic means with the purpose of harassing another person. The prohibited conduct may include a threat to inflict injury or physical harm or a threat to commit any crime against a person or their property. It also includes sending lewd or obscene material to emotionally harm or induce fear in the victim (sometimes referred to as revenge porn).

How do I get a protective order?

To apply for a protective order, you should go to or file online with the Superior Court between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. If the court is closed, applicants will need to wait until it reopens to file a protective order. Applicants can apply at the county courthouse where the offense occurred, where either the applicant or the offender lives, or where the applicant is sheltered.

Individuals are not required to report the crime to the police to seek a protective order. However, they have the option to do so, if they choose. Courts will not deny an application solely because the crime has not been reported to law enforcement.

What happens after I get a temporary protective order?

The offender will be served with a copy of the order. This means that they will be given a copy by either the police or a sheriff’s officer. Once they are given a copy of the order, they must follow it. If the offender does not follow the protections in the order, the victim should notify the police immediately to report a violation of the order.

After the victim receives a temporary protective order, a hearing in front of a judge will be scheduled approximately 10 days later. To decide if the temporary order should be made final, the judge considers:

  • The offense committed, and
  • The possibility of future risk to the victim’s safety or well-being.

These two elements must be proven true by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence simply means that it is more likely that they occurred than that they did not.

The protective order will not be denied because:

  • A victim did not report the act to the police,
  • A victim was intoxicated,
  • The victim did not leave the location, or
  • There is no physical injury.

The trial may not involve any testimony regarding the victim’s previous sexual conduct or the victim’s manner of dress when the incident occurred.

If a final protective order is entered, it lasts for the rest of the victim’s lifetime or until modified or terminated by further court order. Final protective orders are recorded on a central registry. This registry is confidential and accessible only by specified agencies, including police, courts, and the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.

If you are the victim and would like legal advice regarding a protective order, please contact the LSNJLAWSM Hotline, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal Hotline, online at, or by phone at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529).