Sexual assault victims seeking protection orders should not have to relive their trauma and face their abusers in court every two years.

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TWO years. That’s the current duration of protection orders in Washington state for victims of sexual assault — and, in too many cases, that is not long enough.

When individuals fear for their safety and have no other recourse, judges can order accused offenders to stay away from them for two years, even when charges are never filed. The exhaustive legal process often includes forcing victims to face their abusers in court.

Since the civil law was enacted in 2006, advocates have learned some important lessons: Not only is that 24-month period too brief, it also subjects victims to another trial-like series of hearings way too soon. Aside from being costly, the process of extending the protection also re-traumatizes those who have suffered from the humiliation of sexual abuse by someone unrelated to them.

There’s a better way to protect victims and make the system work more efficiently. The state Legislature ought to make some changes when its members reconvene in Olympia next month.

Lawmakers should change the law to ensure judges have the authority to grant a sexual-assault protection order beyond two years, as they do for victims of domestic violence, harassment and stalking.

Proposed legislation, HB 2033, had bipartisan support last session, but lawmakers ran out of time. They must not delay again.

Between 2010 and 2014, more than 550 sexual-assault-protection-order requests were filed in King County, 324 in Pierce County and 138 in Snohomish County. Within the last five years, advocates report that fewer than half of petitions were granted in King County Superior Court.

Orders do not show up on criminal background checks, but they do serve as a powerful warning for attackers to leave their victims alone.