On Tuesday evening, (March 18, 2014), the Pennsylvania Senate concurred on House amendments to State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf’s SB 681 that would provide court ordered protection for victims of sexual assault. SB 681 will now be sent to the Governor.
SB 681 would authorize a victim of sexual assault to petition the court requesting protection from the defendant regardless of whether the victim seeks criminal prosecution.
Today, in Pennsylvania, orders of protection are available to sexual assault victims only if a criminal case has been initiated. But, in fact, only 28% of victims ever report their victimization to law enforcement. Even when victims do choose to report, many cases are not prosecuted because of the burden of proof or problems with evidence.
Based on a hearing, the legislation would allow a court to order a defendant from having any contact with the victim directly or through a third party. This same protection is currently available to victims of domestic violence.
“The victims of sexual violence deserve the same protection from any future contact with an offender, regardless of whether they press criminal charges,” said Senator Greenleaf. “Victims of sexual assault are left traumatized and fearful when they have no legal protection. We must provide court ordered protection to keep them safe.”
This bill was drafted with the support of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR). According to PCAR, “the proposed legislation reflects a growing national trend to protect victims of sexual violence and if passed, will provide victims with a civil remedy that requires the offender to stay away.”
In addition to the District of Columbia, 26 states have passed laws providing protection orders for sexual assault victims.