Sarah’s Bill

Hi, my name is Sarah Pesi. I’m a 17 year old senior at Belle Vernon Area High School. I need your help to get the PA legislature to pass a restraining order law for our state – one of only 12 that doesn’t currently offer such protection.

My journey in relation to this bill began when I was only 12 when I experienced harassing and stalking behavior from an adult I was acquainted with. He pushed me, pulled on my shirt, and knocked the wind out of me; to name just a few of the terrifying behaviors I was subjected to. I followed all the right steps even going to the police only to find out that I didn’t meet the relationship nexus for a restraining order. As a result I was forced to quit my job, an activity I once really enjoyed. Currently, in Pennsylvania a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) is the only protective order available and to qualify you have to meet a specific relationship nexus. The relationship nexus required is someone who is a relative or current/former intimate partner. So because my stalker didn’t meet the relationship nexus I was left without any form of legal protection.

So because my stalker didn’t meet the relationship nexus I was left without any form of legal protection.

Then, at 14 I joined a program called youth and government where I learned how to draft a bill. I drafted a bill so no one else would have to experience the same frustration, disappointment, and fear that I felt. The bill I drafted at 14 would allow those who do not meet the relationship nexus to obtain a PFA to be able to file for a restraining order. In addition, it gives the petitioner the option to pursue a legal remedy on their own behalf while not having to wait for the busy District Attorney to prosecute. In addition, my bill also strengthens the harassment statute because many offences considered harassment under our current statute are considered stalking or even assault in other states. So a portion of my bill establishes a comprehensive grading system for harassment based on the offence committed since some are considered more detrimental than others. My bill covers a variety of offences to be eligible for a protective order including: (1) An act that causes serious bodily harm.(2) An act that places the petitioner in fear of imminent serious bodily harm.(3) Assault in any degree.(4) Rape or sexual offense (5) False imprisonment (6) Aggravated harassment in the first or second degree(7) Stalking(8) Trespassing.(9) Kidnapping. I would like to take the time to stress that I want this piece of legislation to remain separate from the PFA law; this protective order is not for people who qualify for a PFA. I realize the importance of recognizing the difference of a domestic context to any other context. There are specific provisions in the PFA relating to a domestic context that are not found in my bill. Thus I realize the importance of keeping them separate for this important purpose. But I also believe the importance of having both of these protective orders in place is equal.

…An estimated 1,305,327 people could’ve been helped, and while we wait, the number is expected only to increase if we do nothing.

The importance of this legislation cannot be ignored. From my estimation on the cost of inaction from 2007-2012 based on statistics from PA Annual Police Reports and applying the statistics of the Bureau of Justice Statistics for crimes the Annual Police Reports do not cover, an estimated 1,305,327 people could’ve been help and while we wait the number is expected only to increase if we do nothing. These numbers continue to astound and sadden me. I don’t want people to suffer anymore when there is something that can be done to help them. This inaction is hurting our economy as well.  People are missing or quitting their jobs, the violence can also cause hospitalizations which cost money. This bill even has the potential to save lives. People may think, well what is a piece of paper going to do? It will allow violators to be arrested before something bad happens and in circumstances that would normally be legal such as standing outside your house on the sidewalk without a protective order the police would not be able to come until the person is practically beating down your door and by that time it may be too late. The time for action is now we can’t afford to wait any longer there is both a human and economic cost to pay if we wait.

This inaction is unacceptable and I will continue to work for what I know is right but I need your help; I can’t do it alone. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “The time is always right to do what is right.”

I have been working on this bill for 6 years now. My hope is that this can be passed before I graduate in June 2013, because in college I will not be able to dedicate the same amount of time that I can now. Every year this bill fails to get passed I cannot help but to feel saddened by all the people who have been let down and are left without protection. This inaction is unacceptable and I will continue to work for what I know is right but I need your help; I can’t do it alone. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “The time is always right to do what is right.” I would really appreciate your support on getting this bill passed before I graduate high school this June.