By Matthew T. Hovey, Esquire
Recently, the 2008 Domestic Violence Fatality Report was released by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The report tracked the number of fatalities in 2008 that involved family or household members, spouses/ex-spouses, current or former intimate partners, persons who share biological parenthood and others (such as intervenors, new partners, bystanders) who were killed in domestic violence-related incidents. Unfortunately, the report contained terrible news: domestic violence fatalities rose 21.7% in 2008. In 2008, there was a total of 147 domestic fatalities compared to the previous years total of 121. To put these numbers into perspective, the report provides a breakdown for our local communities. The number of fatalities in each of our local counties included: Berks – 6, Montgomery – 4, Chester – 4, Philadelphia – 18, Lehigh – 1, Northhampton – 3, Lebanon – 2, and Delaware – 10. The report stressed, however, that these numbers did not include the unknown amount of suicides by people who suffered from “years of unrelenting abuse.”
Victims may obtain a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA) to shield them from continued abuse. In other words, the primary goal of the Order is to prevent future physical and sexual abuse by a family or household member, a sexual or intimate partner, or between people who share biological parenthood. According to 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6102(a), for the purposes of obtaining a PFA, abuse is considered to occur when a defendant is:
(1) Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon. (2) Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury. (3) The infliction of false imprisonment pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2903 (relating to false imprisonment). (4) Physically or sexually abusing minor children, including such terms as defined in Chapter 63 (relating to child protective services). (5) Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. The definition of this paragraph applies only to proceedings commenced under this title and is inapplicable to any criminal prosecutions commenced under Title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses).
An adult or an emancipated minor may seek a PFA for himself/herself. Also, any parent, adult household member, or guardian ad litem may seek a PFA on behalf of minor children or an adult who has been declared incompetent by filing a petition with the court alleging abuse by the defendant. Filing for a PFA will cost you nothing. Pennsylvania law requires that a plaintiff in a PFA be charged no fee or cost which is associated with filing, issuing, registering, or serving the Order.
Your first step in obtaining a PFA should be contacting your local police or filing out and printing the PFA form, which can be found online at: http://www.co.lancaster.pa.us/courts/lib/courts/Petition_for_protection_from_abuse_with_attachment_A.pdf.
The entire report can be found online at: http://www.pcadv.org/Resources/2008_DV_Fatality_Report.pdf.