The Law and Your Relationships

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), also known as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), are spread during vaginal, anal and oral sex or by contact with infected blood (sharing needles). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 19 million new STDs occur each year, almost half of them among people ages 15 to 24. Some STDs have symptoms, while others do not. However, all are serious and can cause serious health complications if not treated.

STDs and the Law
In today’s society, we have a duty to avoid causing an unreasonable risk of harm to others. In other words, don’t do something that you know will hurt someone. In Pennsylvania, this duty extends to sexual partners. Partners who know that they are infected with an STD are increasingly being held responsible for spreading the disease to an unknowing partner.

In order to have a valid claim, an attorney must prove that the person accused of transmitting the disease knew that he or she was infected. The specific disease involved is also important in the outcome. Knowingly transmitting HIV or herpes, both incurable lifelong conditions, is grounds for civil lawsuit. However, many curable STDs such as gonorrhea or syphilis may not warrant a lawsuit.

If you think you are infected with an STD, check out these resources for more information:

Sexual Assault
Sexual assault includes forced sexual conduct or penetration without the victim’s consent or when the victim is underage. These types of crimes often are called rape, sexual assault, sexual conduct, or sexual battery. Sexual assault is motivated by the need to control, humiliate, and harm. It is not motivated by sexual desire. Rapists use sex as a weapon to dominate and hurt others.

If you are the victim of forced sexual contact, call the police immediately
without showering first. For additional help, contact the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (800) 692-7445 or

Domestic Violence
If you are in a relationship characterized by abusive behavior or your partner uses fear and intimidation to gain power and control over you, you should seek immediate assistance. Abusive behavior includes physical battering, emotional abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse, and may involve children, pets, threats, intimidation and isolation. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline right away if you or someone you know is in this situation and you need advice: (800) 799-7233. They are also available at

Many counties have local shelters available. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape website lists numerous shelters at

Protective Order
To stop an alleged abuser who is a family or household member, sexual or intimate partner, file for a Protection from Abuse Order at your local courthouse. A Protection from Abuse Order is a civil order that provides protection from harm by family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who have a child in common. The order offers civil legal protection from domestic violence to both female and male victims.

Procedures vary from county to county. A typical PFA order provides no contact and forces the abuser out of the home for several months. If the abuser fails to stop, he or she will face serious legal consequences. Other abusers may face criminal prosecution and jail.