Victims of abuse in Pennsylvania can apply for three separate types of orders of protection, depending on the type of abuse suffered, the age of the victim, and the relationship between the victim and the abuser. These options include a Protection from Abuse order (PFA), a Sexual Violence Protection order, and a Protection from Intimidation order.
A court order directing an abuser to stay away from the victim is called a PFA. Other states have similar orders, though they may have different names. Some states call them Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO's) or Family Protection Orders (FPO’s). A PFA is a civil order from the court that gives protective “relief” from abuse for up to three years. A person can file for a PFA order for themselves or on behalf of their minor children. The order will describe certain things that the abuser must do or is forbidden to do in relation to the victim, and can include many types of protection. If the abuser does not comply with the order, there can be criminal charges.
In Pennsylvania, a PFA can be obtained against a person who falls into one of the following categories: current or former spouses, household members, same sex couples, parents, children, people related by blood or marriage (including siblings), and current or former intimate partners (including dating relationships). Importantly, a PFA cannot be obtained against a stranger.
If you are considering requesting a PFA from the court, we suggest you first talk it over with one of our counselors. The counselor can help you look at what might happen as a result of filing your PFA petition. A PFA is just one part of a larger plan to be safe from abuse (which may also include creating a safety plan). Sometimes there are unexpected, and undesired, consequences. A PFA is not always the most effective, or the safest option.
To learn more about the PFA Act, click here. For more information and answers to frequently asked questions, please visit Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence's website, or Westmoreland County's resouces page.
Effective July 1, 2015, the Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation Act (PSVI) permits victims of sexual violence or intimidation to apply for a court order mandating that their abuser stay away from them. Importantly, unlike PFA orders, neither the Sexual Violence Protection orders nor the Protection from Intimidation orders require there to be a familial or household relationship between the victim and the abuser. Victims of sexual violence can apply for a Sexual Violence Protection order, which would require the abuser to stay away from the victim for up to three years. In order to apply for a Protection from Intimidation orders, the victim of intimidation must be under the age of 18 and the abuser must be an adult. There are no age restrictions on Sexual Violence Protection orders.
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