What constitutes “Abuse” in Pennsylvania for purposes of a person obtaining a Protection from Abuse Order?

As a Family Law Attorney in Reading, Pennsylvania, Attorney Guillama often represents individuals who are either seeking a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) from the Court or individuals who are accused of committing acts of "abuse" wherein the individual claiming to be abused is seeking a PFA against them.

It is important to understand that 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 6102 defines "abuse" as follows: Abuse is the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or persons who share biological parenthood:

  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. Section 2903 (relating to false imprisonment).
  4. Physically or sexually abusing minor children, including such terms as defined in Chapter 63 (related to Child Protective Services).
  5. Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without property authority, under circumstances which placed the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. The definition in this paragraph applies only to proceedings commenced under this title and is applicable to any criminal prosecutions commenced under Title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses.)

Accordingly, you will see that causing or sustaining an injury is not necessary for the Court to issue a PFA. Rather, attempting to cause or threatening to cause an injury can be sufficient. Furthermore, following someone or repeatedly contacting someone with said conduct placing that person in fear of bodily injury can also be sufficient for the Court to enter a PFA.

Unfortunately, many people abuse the PFA system and attempt to obtain a Protection from Abuse Order for illegitimate reasons. It is important to understand that the PFA statute attempts to protect individuals who have been abused and/or fear being abused by an individual and, therefore, misuse of the PFA laws in Pennsylvania is entirely inappropriate.

If you have any questions relative to obtaining a Protection from Abuse Order, or should you need help in defending against the issuance of a PFA Order against you, feel free to contact Berks County Family Law Attorney Joseph A. Guillama.