On July 1, 2015, the Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation Act (PSVI) became effective in Pennsylvania. The PSVI law permits certain victims in need of safety and protection from future interactions with an alleged offender to seek two separate protective orders: (1) a Sexual Violence Protective Order (SVP) for victims of sexual violence, regardless of the victim’s age and/or (2) a Protective Order from Intimidation (PFI) for victims under 18 years of age from intimidation by an alleged perpetrator who is 18 years of age or older.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE NEW LAW?
After making a specific finding that victims of sexual violence and intimidation desire safety and protection from future interactions with an offender (regardless of whether they seek criminal prosecution), the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the PSVI law to provide victims of sexual violence with a civil remedy requiring the alleged offender to stay away from the victim, as well as providing for other appropriate relief.
WHO DOES THE PSVI PROTECT?
The PSVI law is similar to the current Protection from Abuse (PFA) law that protects “family or household members” from abuse, sexual or otherwise. However, unlike the PFA law where the party seeking protection must first show that they are a “family or household member,” the PSVI law does not have that same requirement. Since “family or household members” are defined under the PFA law as “spouses or persons who have been spouses, persons living as spouses or who lived as spouses, parents and children, other persons related by consanguinity or affinity, current or former sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood” a person who did not have such a relationship with an alleged perpetrator was unable to obtain a PFA order. However, the PSVI does not require such a relationship. Therefore, co-workers, co-eds, neighbors and others who are not “family or household members” are now eligible for a protective order under the new law under the appropriate circumstances.
An SVP or PFI Order can provide relief such as a “no contact” order by the defendant which includes, but is not limited to, restraining a defendant from entering plaintiff’s residence, place of employment, business or school as well as prohibiting indirect contact through third parties as well as any other relief sought by the plaintiff deemed appropriate by the court.
Both SVO and PFI orders are civil in nature and do not require the filing of a criminal charge in order to permit a plaintiff from obtaining protection. Although the orders are civil in nature, a person violating an order can be arrested and face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Additionally, a plaintiff can file a petition for civil contempt alleging a violation of any provision of the order. And, upon finding a defendant in civil contempt, a court may order a prison term of no more than six months until the defendant complies with the order.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER – The information contained in this article is for general guidance on the subject matter only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information in this article. Accordingly, the information in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and services. As such, it should NOT be used as a substitute for consultation with a McMahon & Winters Law Firm attorney. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should always consult with a McMahon & Winters Law Firm attorney.
PROTECTION OF VICTIMS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE OR INTIMIDATION ACT http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/consCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&ttl=42&div=0&chpt=62A
PA COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE – TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE BULLETIN http://www.pcadv.org/Resources/STOPTABul_PSVI_PCADV_04062015.pdf
MORNING CALL OPINION, JUNE 5, 2015