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Protection from Abuse Orders

Domestic violence is more than a hit or slap. It's physical and mental abuse that's inflicted in order to control another person by fear. Violence usually intensifies from one episode to the next, and there's no quick fix to empower victims or defuse abusers. Consequently, legal action is the best option in some cases.

One legal action available to victims of violence is the Protection From Abuse Order or PFA. Basically, a PFA is a judge's order requiring abusers to stay away from their victims. The order remains in effect for up to three years, a time period that can be extended if circumstances warrant. If you are a victim of abuse and wish to pursue a PFA, call SafeNet at (814) 455-1774 or the crisis Hotline at (814) 454-8161. Counselors can help you see all avenues open to you, determine your immediate needs for safety and shelter, and arrange personal counseling or legal options counseling at SafeNet's legal unit. You can also get more information from the Protection From Abuse Coordinated Services (PFACS) website.

Are you a victim of abuse?
Abuse can be mental, emotional, verbal or physical in nature.  Physical abuse is an aggressive act. Some examples of physical abuse are pushing, hitting, pulling hair, forcing sex, locking in a room, pinching, restraining, shoving and punching. Physical abuse is always accompanied by some form of verbal or emotional abuse.  Threats to harm you are the most potent and potentially dangerous forms of emotional/verbal abuse.   Acts of physical violence are  done purposely to hurt you, force you to do something you don't want to do or to control you by fear. Make your safety and the safety of your children your top concern. If you need help fleeing your home safely, the police can help.

What is a Protection From Abuse Court Order (PFA)?
A PFA is a legal document signed by a judge that orders your abuser from contacting you and to stop threatening and hurting you. A PFA can protect you if the perpetrator of the abuse is a family member, relative through marriage, or a present or former intimate partner. A PFA protection may be extended to protect other members of the family such as the victim's children if needed.

How can a PFA help you?
A PFA can...
Order your abuser to stop threatening and hurting you and may not contact you at home, work or school.
Order your abuser to not harass you or your relatives in any way.
Require your abuser to surrender any weapons that were used in prior incidents.
Evict your abuser from your home.
Give you temporary custody of your children.

How do you get a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA)?
If you would like assistance with the PFA process you can call SafeNet at (814)455-1774, or call the crisis Hotline at (814)454-8161. A counselor advocate will assist you in accessing the SafeNet Legal Department. We will explain your options to you. If you choose to get a PFA, we can help you with the paperwork and accompany you to court. If you choose not to get a PFA, we will go over other options with you, including a safety plan for you and your children. When you call us, you are under no obligation to take action. Our job is to help you think through your options and to decide if a PFA is what you want or need. We will not pressure you to make a decision. A Protection from Abuse Order may also be obtained through the PFA Coordinator's Office at the Erie County Court House on your own. You can call 814-451-6324 for more information.

What happens when you request a PFA?
You will go to two court hearings. (We will accompany you to court and our attorney may be able to assist you free of charge at the final hearing.) If the judge grants your request for a PFA at the first hearing, a temporary protection order lasting up to 10 days will be issued. The Sheriff's Department will serve a copy of the court order to your abuser that day, if possible. Your abuser will be evicted from your home if your PFA orders it. Your abuser will receive a copy of the court order stating that he or she can no longer hurt you, follow you, or come to your home or workplace. Failure to follow the order can result in arrest and jail time for your abuser.

A second hearing will take place within 10 days from the first. Again, a counselor advocate will accompany you to court and our attorney may assist you in Court. Your abuser will have the chance to testify at the second hearing. If you are successful at this final hearing, a PFA Order lasting up to three years will be issued. Temporary custody of your children may be granted to you at the discretion of the judge, or you may be required to follow an existing custody order. If no custody order is in place or if temporary custody of the children is granted through the PFA, both parents will be encouraged to file for a custody order.

When does your PFA Take Effect?
Even though a judge has signed it, the court order must be served in-person to your abuser, usually by the Sheriff's Department. When that happens, your PFA goes into effect immediately.

Do I have to be in shelter to get a PFA?
No. 98% of the people we help through the PFA process are not in shelter.

If you're not ready right now for a PFA, can you get help in the future?
Yes. If you ever need our help with a PFA, counseling or shelter, call SafeNet Center at any time.

The police can also help guide you to us. 

All materials provided by SafeNet's web site is for educational purposes only. We are not providing legal, medical or psychological advice. If you wish to seek services, please come to our agency or call us at (814) 455-1774.

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