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Politics & Government

Legislation to Increase Protection for Victims of Sexual Assault and Stalking Faces Final Vote

An amendment that would increase protection for victims of stalking could get a final vote Monday in the Pennsylvania House after a five-year effort by its teenage author.

Sarah Pesi was 13 when she became the victim of stalking by a stranger. Sarah and her parents sought to take action against her stalker and found they did not qualify for any legal protection because no previous relationship existed. Pennsylvania is one of 12 states that only allow restraining orders to be obtained when the stalker is a relative or an individual who has had a past intimate relationship with the victim.

This prompted Sarah to take action and author the amendment to what is now being called “Sarah’s Bill”.

“Thirty-eight other states have the ability for people who are being stalked by strangers, or people who are afraid of strangers who are threatening them, that they can get a civil order,” said Heather Arnet, the CEO of Women and Girl’s Foundation, which has joined the fight for passage of the bill. “SB 681 will provide victims of sexual assault and stalking the right to get a civil restraining order from a stranger who is stalking them.”

SB 681 expands protections and rights to victims of sexual assault and also contains Sarah’s amendment. It has already gained approval from the state Senate.

Arnet said the protection this bill could have offered is long overdue.

“Sarah herself did some research and found that since she started working on this effort over 2 million Pennsylvanians could have been protected if the bill had been made into law the first year that Sarah’s law had been introduced,” Arnet said. 

The rest of the bill would allow victims of sexual assault to request a restraining order when there was no prior relationship between an attacker and a victim.