The Stay-at-Home Order and its Impact on Victims of Domestic Violence

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After issuing Stay-at-Home Orders for several Pennsylvania Counties in the preceding weeks, on April 3, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf ordered every resident within the Commonwealth to stay at home through the end of April, with the exception of completing life sustaining activities outside of the home. Not only did this order result in the loss of healthy outlets in the form of recreational activities and socialization, but for many it also meant they could no longer go to their jobs. Loss of work can result in increased stressors among families. It also means that more victims of abuse are stuck at home with their abusers. Increased stress will naturally increase the incidents of domestic violence, but the situation also places abusers in a position where they thrive: one in which their victim is easily isolated. Victims of domestic abuse can be young or old, rich or poor, male or female, professional or unemployed. Most of us know a victim of domestic abuse, whether we are aware of his or her suffering or not.

Across the country, law enforcement and domestic violence resources have reported a spike in domestic violence calls since social distancing became recommended and less and less people ventured out to conduct their daily business. The more recent Stay-at-Home orders have been referred to by many as “Safe-at-Home” orders, which is sadly ironic for victims of abuse. National and state hotlines have remained open, but unfortunately, many victims may be afraid to contact a hotline, knowing that if they cannot safely get out of the situation, they will continue to be stuck at home with their abuser. 

While Courts across the state have closed to the public, they remain open for business for matters relating to safety and security. Courts continue to accept Petitions for Protection from Abuse (PFA), emergency custody matters, and most continue to accept routine pleadings for family law matters, such as custody, divorce, and support. When a temporary PFA Order is granted, it will typically exclude the person accused of abuse from the home until a final hearing can be held. At this time, in most Pennsylvania counties, final hearings on PFAs will not be held until the courts reopen to the public. In the event a PFA is may not be appropriate or a temporary PFA is denied, there are other options available to those who find themselves subject to domestic violence during this difficult time (or any time). 

If you or someone you know is attempting to flee an abusive situation, when you can do so safely, call the lawyers at Colgan & Associates to explore what options might be available to help.

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