Legislation that would provide court-ordered protection for victims of sexual assault is headed to the desk of Governor Tom Corbett.
Senate Bill 681 was given final approval in the Pennsylvania Senate on Tuesday evening.
The measure would authorize a victim of sexual assault to petition the court for protection from the defendant, regardless of whether the victim seeks criminal prosecution.
Under current law, orders of protection are available to sexual assault victims only if a criminal case has been initiated.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Bucks/Montgomery), said only 28 percent of victims ever report their victimization to law enforcement, and even when victims do choose to report, many cases are not prosecuted because of the burden of proof or problems with evidence.
Greenleaf said his bill would allow a court to order a defendant from having any contact with the victim directly or through a third party, the same protection currently available to victims of domestic violence.
"The victims of sexual violence deserve the same protection from any future contact with an offender, regardless of whether they press criminal charges," Greenleaf said in a news release. "Victims of sexual assault are left traumatized and fearful when they have no legal protection. We must provide court ordered protection to keep them safe."
Greenleaf said 26 states and the District of Columbia already have laws providing protection orders for sexual assault victims.