Chester County Family Lawyers
Protection for Sexual Assault Victims and Minors in Chester County

Protection for Sexual Assault Victims and Minors in Chester County

Since 1990, victims of violence have been able to seek protective orders, but only when the offender was an intimate partner or family member. The Protection from Sexual Violence and Intimidation Act (PSVI) extends the ability to seek a protective order to victims, when the offender is not an intimate partner of family member, effectively tightening the protection gap that was left for victims of sexual violence. Until now, victims of sexual violence could be harassed, stalked and intimidated by the offender and have no judicial protection from it. Victims were effectively victimized again and again by their offender with no recourse available.

Three months after its effective date, the protection this new law affords to victims has been realized in Chester County. The Tredyffrin-Easttown School District teenage girl who was tormented by four teenage boys that allegedly sexually assaulted her has been granted a temporary protection order. Among other things, the boys sent photos of a sexual nature of the victim to others as well as altered sexually explicit photos so that they appeared to be the victim. She was re-victimized as the teens posted photos of her online, harassed her directly, through her peers and social media. Under this new law, she and other victims in Pennsylvania can stop their tormentors’ antics.

Like the Protection From Abuse Act (PFA), PSVI gives victims the opportunity to get in front of a judge, and obtain a court order that requires the offender to stay away from them for up to three years. Crimes of sexual violence do not typically make their way through the criminal justice system and up until now there were no civil remedies available to many victims. Under PSVI, there are two types of protection orders an individual may seek, a Sexual Violence Protection Order and a Protection From Intimidation Order.

A Sexual Violence Protection Order (SVPO) is available to minors and adults who are victims of sexual violence. Under this act, a victim of sexual assault and/or rape by a teacher, family friend, employer, co-worker, landlord, stranger or classmate for example, would be protected. Prohibited actions include harassment, stalking, sexting pictures of the victim and cyber bullying for example. Prior to the passage of the Act, protection was only extended to victims of sexual assault, when the offender was an intimate partner or family member. SVPO’s protect the victim by ordering the offender to not only stay away, but to refrain from contacting the victim.

A Protection From Intimidation Order (PFIO) protects only minors from intimidation, when the offender is at least 18 years old and no family or dating relationship exists. Under this act, a child who is harassed or stalked by a teacher, coach, youth leader, counselor, or adult family friend for example, would be protected. Prohibited actions by an offender include regularly watching, following, or sending text messages and/or emails to the child’s cell phone. Neither a SVPO nor PFIO require that criminal charges be filed.

Both SVPO’s and PFIO’s prohibit contact with the victim, including preventing the offender from being at or near the victim’s home, school or workplace. Furthermore, such orders may prohibit an offender from contacting or intimidating the victim through a third party. The Protection From Sexual Violence and Intimidation Act (PSVI), like the Protection From Abuse Act (PFA), may result in criminal charges if an offender violates the order. Under the Act, the Pennsylvania State Police is required to create and maintain a protection order registry. Finally, there is no cost to the plaintiff to file a petition under the Act. This gives everyone access to a civil remedy, because no victim of sexual assault or child should have to be harassed or intimidated simply because they cannot afford to file.

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