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Does a PFA Order Really Protect Abuse Victims?


Does a PFA Order Really Protect Abuse Victims?

As Philadelphia family lawyers we are keenly aware we deal with life-and-death situations when a client comes to us with a domestic abuse concern. It’s one reason we breathe a sigh of relief when someone does come to us. So many abuse victims try to file protection from abuse (PFA) orders alone, and end up creating major vulnerabilities their abusers tend to find and exploit.

PFAs have certainly been in the news lately, thanks to the altercation between State Rep. Tarah Toohil and fellow lawmaker Nick Micarelli. Micarelli pulled a gun on Toohil and threatened her life. She recently won a 3-year PFA order against him.

As a result, we’ve been hearing a lot more questions about PFAs.

What is a PFA?

A PFA is a protective court order which can deter your abuser. Once the judge awards the order it will be served by law enforcement.

The order outlines specific actions the abuser must avoid taking. In some cases, it compels the abuser to take some additional actions, such as returning property which he or she may be holding hostage. If the abuser violates the order at any point he or she can face criminal charges. In addition, most individuals who receive PFAs receive domestic abuse support which helps them develop a safety plan.

Do PFAs work?

Statistics indicate PFAs aren’t perfect, but they can be very helpful in deterring future abuse. They are most effective when victims are able to obtain a no-contact order, instead of an order which merely orders the perpetrator to stop engaging in abusive behavior. However, even if they do are not successful at preventing another incident they do speed the process of getting your abuser behind bars should he or she come after you again.

No-contact orders may be more effective simply because they’re easier to enforce. And having a PFA at all gives you something to enforce, a court-ordered definition of unacceptable behavior which ensures domestic violence isn’t left up to anyone’s interpretation. As the Department of Justice notes:

“Although not studied directly, it appears to be significantly easier for law enforcement to monitor and enforce protective and no-contact orders than it is to monitor and interrupt abuse in general.” 

Domestic abuse laws are evolving. 

Currently lawmakers are evaluating six provisions which may provide even more effective protections for domestic abuse victims under Pennsylvania law. Watch our blog for additional details as they emerge.

In the meantime, know that you don’t have to deal with domestic violence alone, and if you’re trying to make your life safer by pursuing a divorce you definitely shouldn’t be alone. Contact Sadek and Cooper for your free case review. We can help you reclaim your life.

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Sadek and Cooper Law Offices, LLC