HARRISBURG—The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) applauds the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to uphold a six-year statute of limitation for Sexual Violence Protection Orders (SVPO) in KNB v. MD. This important decision not only maintains the current legal application of the statute but also ruled that “continued risk of harm element” does not require trial courts to evaluate the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s mental and emotional reaction when encountering the defendant.
A Sexual Violence Protection Order is designed to protect victims of sexual violence from further abuse or intimidation by their abuser, regardless of whether or not criminal charges have been filed against the perpetrator. It is similar to a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA) but differs in the relationship between the abuser and the victim. PFAs require an intimate or household relationship between the two parties while a SVPO does not and SVPOs are available to victims of sexual violence who are at continued risk of harm from their perpetrator making it a helpful legal measure in protecting survivors from future harm.
The Supreme Court’s decision is welcomed by the advocate community as it clearly helps survivors have a lengthy period to seek protection with the SVPO. It also helps survivors in the process of securing an order by requiring a trial court to consider the person’s individualized mental or emotional reaction to the defendant. Sexual violence is a deeply traumatic event for a survivor. It can be confusing, disorienting and produce anxiety even after the harm. As a result, the ruling interpreting the continued risk of harm principle is a trauma-informed decision that protects the survivor from future harm with a fair legal standard.
“As our office assists many survivors seeking Sexual Violence Protection Orders in Pennsylvania, we applaud the court’s decision and know that this will help many survivors. We frequently see ongoing trauma responses occurring in persons who have experienced sexual violence. This decision ensures that there is a legal tool to help protect them from additional damage caused by contact with their abuser,” said PCAR’s Legal Director, Andrea Levy.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR)’s Sexual Violence Legal Assistance Project is available to answer questions about SVPOs and assist survivors in obtaining an order. Our office can be contacted at 1-800-692-7445 ext. 190 or visit our website at www.pcar.org and click on the ‘Talk to a lawyer today’ link.