October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You can visit www.nnedv.org for details on the daily initiatives. The goal is to provide information on what constitutes domestic violence and how to address it once recognized. Thursday, October 19th, is purple Thursday and people are encouraged to wear purple to raise awareness. Pennsylvania has several laws in place to protect victims of domestic violence.
The Protection from Abuse (PFA) Act provides a civil remedy in the form of a stay away order. The PFA Act can only be utilized if there is a certain relationship between the victim and the offender; specifically, family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or persons who share biological parenthood. Abuse under the PFA Act includes causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, placing another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, infliction of false imprisonment, physically or sexually abusing minor children, and stalking in the sense of engaging in a course of conduct which place a person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. Three years is the maximum length of a PFA Order. Violations of a PFA Order can carry criminal violations.
Pennsylvania’s Protection from Sexual Violence and/or Intimidation Act (PSVI) is another civil remedy that allows victims to obtain a civil no-contact order for up to three (3) years. Adults and minors can petition for an Order on the basis of sexual violence. Only minors may obtain an Order on the basis of intimidation provided the offender is over 18 years old. There is no filing fee to file. A temporary Order can be granted following an ex parte hearing. A final hearing must be held within ten (10) days of when the Petition is filed. The victim must establish sexual violence and/or intimidation by a preponderance of the evidence. The PSVI Act does not restrict protection based on relationship of the parties involved. Sexual violence for purposes of the PSVI Act includes but is not limited to rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, indecent exposure, and unlawful dissemination of an intimate image. Violation of a PSVI Order can also carry criminal consequences.