Domestic Violence or family violence is the abuse of power or control.
It is behavior used by one person to control another through force or threats.
A batterer makes a choice to strike, hit, kick, punch or threaten the victim.
Domestic violence includes physical and sexual attacks and threats. These
violent acts are criminal and the batterer can be prosecuted for committing
them. The acts are a means of controlling the victim’s thoughts, feelings and
behavior. The violence does not lessen over time. The threats and or beatings
generally happen more often with time, last longer and cause greater physical
injuries. Emotional abuse and insulting words are almost always part of
the abuse pattern, but are not considered criminal acts. The wounds from these injuries, however ,
may be more difficult to heal.
Domestic violence is not caused by or provoked by the actions or inaction’s of
the victim. Domestic violence is not directly caused by alcohol or drug abuse,
depression, lack of money, lack of a job, mental illness or abuse as a child.
However, existing problems often create additional stress in a relationship and
may increase the risk of violence. Many abusers blame the victim or other things
for their violent acts and do not take responsibility for the abusive behavior.
There is never an excuse for violence.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL DEFINITION OF ABUSE?
Chapter 209A, the Massachusetts Abuse Prevention Act, defines abuse as :
· actual physical abuse, or
· an attempt to harm another, or
· placing another in fear of serious physical harm, or
· causing another to engage in sexual relations by force, threat of force or
WHAT IS A 209A ORDER?
An Abuse Prevention Order, called a "209A Order," or a "protective order," or
"restraining order," is a civil court order intended to provide protection from
physical or sexual harm caused by force or threat of harm from a family or
household member. You can obtain an order against:
· a spouse or former spouse
· a present or former household member
· a relative by blood or a present or former relative by marriage
· the parent of your minor child
· a person with whom you have or had a substantial dating relationship.
WHERE CAN I GET A 209A ORDER?
A 209A Order can be obtained in any District Court, Superior Court , or Probate
and Family Court in Massachusetts. An emergency 209A Order can be obtained
through any police department after court hours, on weekends and holidays. You
do not need a lawyer to file for a 209A Order4 and there is no charge for
HOW CAN I GET AN ORDER IN DISTRICT COURT?
Should you decide to go to a District Court for a 209A Order, you may go to the
District Court in the area where you live or, if you have fled to another area
to avoid abuse, you may go to the District Court in the area where you now live
(see list of resources, p.14). Go to the Clerk’s Office in the court and ask for
a "protective order" or a "209A Order," You will receive a packet of forms to
complete as an application for a protective order.
In some courts, there may be a Court Advocate from a local battered women’s
service agency to help you with the form. A Victim/Witness Advocate from the
District Attorney’s Office is also usually available for assistance and to
discuss the option of filing criminal charges against your abuser. Ask someone
at the Clerk’s Office to direct you to the District Attorney’s Victim/ Witness
Office for help. You do not have to file criminal charges in order to obtain a
209A Order. However, criminal charges can be helpful in holding a batterer
responsible for criminal acts committed against you . If there is a criminal
violation, the Court can also require a batterer to obtain counseling or other
WHAT QUESTIONS ARE ASKED ON THE FORM?
On the application or complaint forms for a 209A order, you need to make a sworn
statement (affidavit) describing the facts of any recent or past incidents of
abuse. It is important to provide as much information about the abuser as
possible. You must also disclose any other existing 209A Orders from any court
or any Probate Court action you are involved in, including any divorce or child
WHAT RELIEF CAN I ASK FOR ON THE APPLICATION?
You may request the judge
to order that the abuser:
· stop or refrain from abusing
· have no contact with you or
a child in your custody
· vacate or move out of the
house or apartment where you live.
You may also request the judge
to order that you receive support and temporary custody
of your children, if the abuser has a legal duty to
support or shares custody. You may request payment for
medical costs incurred due to injuries caused by the
abuser and related loss of wages. You may ask that the
abuser not contact you at work or at a relative’s home,
and that your new address be kept confidential from the
abuser for your safety.
WHAT ABOUT CHILD CUSTODY AND
A 209A Order from a District
Court can provide you with temporary support and custody
of your minor children. Only the Probate and Family
Court , however, can decide child visitation rights. A
209A Order from that court may be more helpful in
dealing with abuse protection that also involves
divorce, long term financial support, child custody and
visitation issues. You may want to speak with a private
attorney for Probate Court or call one of the legal
services or victim’s services listed on this brochure
for an attorney referral list. Pro bono (free) or
reduced fee legal services may be available.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
After you have completed the
209A complaint or application forms, return them to the
Clerk’s Office and ask when the judge will hear the
applications for protective orders. The Clerk’s Office
will tell you the time and courtroom location for your
At your hearing, the judge
will ask why you need a protective order and will review
your complaint or application forms and affidavit. The
judge will be deciding whether it appears there is a
substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse. He
or she will probably ask you some clarifying questions.
In some court’s, a "209A Briefing Session " is held
before the hearing and a Court Advocate or a District
Attorney’s Victim / Witness Advocate will explain the
hearing process and be with you in the courtroom.
WHAT WILL THE JUDGE DO AFTER
SPEAKING WITH YOU?
The judge may grant or deny
the 209A Order after speaking with you. If the judge
grants the Order, you will receive a Temporary Order for
up to ten days. A court date will be scheduled within 10
court days for you to return to court for a Permanent
Order, which lasts for a year and can be renewed. Keep
your copy of the Order with you at all times. The judge
will also order the abuser to surrender all guns and gun
permits he or she possesses.
The police will deliver
(serve) a copy of the Order to your abuser and will keep
a copy on file at the police station. It is important to
provide the abuser’s home, work, or other likely
addresses so that the police can serve the Order as
quickly as possible and provide the required notice of
the next court date.
A violation of certain terms
of a 209A Order (orders to vacate the premises, refrain
from abuse and have no contact with you) requires that
the police arrest your abuser. A violation of a 209A
Order, once the abuser has notice of the Order, is a
WHAT IS A TEN DAY HEARING?
The Ten Day Hearing requires
that you return to the court on the date given on the
Order. If you do not return to court, the Order will not
be in effect after that date. The hearing offers the
chance for both parties, you and the abuser, to come
before the judge and offer information (evidence) as to
why a permanent 209A Order, which lasts for one year,
should or should not be granted. Bring any hospital
records, photographs or police reports you may have for
the judge to review. You may also bring a support person
with you. The abuser may be present at the ten day
hearing and may oppose the 209A Order . If the abuser is
not present and has been served with the Order, the
judge can still grant the Order for one year period.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END OF A
YEAR OR THE END OF THE EFFECTIVE DATE?
If a 209A Order is issued by
the judge for a year, you must return to the court for
an extension of the Order at the end of that year or the
Order will expire.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU WANT
TO CHANGE THE TERMS OF THE ORDER?
Any changes in the Order
before that date must be made with both you and the
abuser appearing in the same court where the Order was
first given. A request to change or amend the Order can
be made at the Clerk’s Office, and a hearing will be
arranged before a judge.
CAN A MINOR OBTAIN A 209A
A minor under 18 years old can
obtain a 209A Order with some restrictions. Generally, a
parent or guardian needs to be present, but the judge
can decide to issue a 209A Order without a parent
present if the minor appears to be in danger. In some
cases, the Department of Social Services may offer
assistance in gaining help for a minor. Many high
schools and colleges also offer support groups for
students in violent relationships. A parent may also
obtain a protective order for his or her child.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE ORDER IS
Once a 209A Order is issued,
violation of certain terms of the Order is a criminal
offense. Violations of orders to refrain from abuse , to
have no contact, and to vacate a household, multiple
family dwelling or workplace, can be prosecuted
criminally under chapter 209A. If the abuser violates
the order, call the police immediately. Show the Order
to the police and explain how it was violated ( a punch,
slap, threat; entering your house or apartment or
refusing to vacate; or, any contact with you at home or
your workplace, either in person, by telephone or mail).
The police must arrest the abuser if they believe or can
see that the terms of the Order were violated. If you do
not call the police, you may be able to file an
application for a criminal complaint on your own at the
Clerk’s Office in the District Court. A Victim/Witness
Advocate can assist you with that process.
If you put yourself in contact
with the abuser, he is vulnerable to arrest. Therefore,
if you want any terms of the order to no longer apply,
you should return to court and ask that the order be
modified or vacated.
WHAT HAPPENS IF AN ARREST IS
If the abuser is arrested,
seek assistance from the Victim/ Witness Advocate in the
District Attorney’s Office the next morning after a
nighttime arrest, or at any time during the day at the
courthouse. A Victim/Witness Advocate will explain what
the charges mean and what will happen next. The Advocate
will also offer ongoing information, referral for
services and cases updates throughout the time the case
is in court.
WHAT CRIMES CAN BE CHARGED?
In addition to the crime of
violating a 209A Order, an abuser can be charged with a
number of other crimes committed at or near the time of
the violation, some of which may include:
· Assault (G.L. c. 265,
Section 13A), which is an attempt or offer to do bodily
injury by force or violence or attempt to batter.
· Assault and Battery ( G.L.
c. 265, Section 13A), which is a harmful or unpermitted
touching of another, no matter how slight, without a
legal right to do so.
· Assault and Battery by Means
of a Dangerous Weapon ( G.L. c. 265, Section 15), which
is a battery with a dangerous weapon, such as a baseball
bat, a shod foot, a knife or other object either
inherently dangerous or used in a way that may cause
serious injury or death to another.
· Threats (G.L. c. 27, section
4), which are verbal or written threats to do harm which
a victim reasonably believes the abuser can commit.
· Trespassing ( G.L. c. 266,
section 120), which is entering or remaining in a house
or on land in violation of a 209A Order.
· Malicious Destruction Of
Personal Property (G.L. c. 266, section 127), which is
the destruction of or injury to personal property, a
house or building in a manner that is willful and
· Stalking (G.L. c. 265,
section, 43 (a)), which is the willful, malicious and
repeated following or harassing of an individual and the
making of threats with the intent to place that person
in imminent fear of death or serious bodily injury. The
penalties are greater for a conviction of a stalking
crime committed in violation of a 209A Order.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER AN ARREST?
Once a criminal complaint has
been issued or an arrest made, the abuser will be
charged with the crime or crimes at an arraignment
proceeding in the District Court. A bail hearing will be
held to determine whether the defendant/abuser will be
released from custody, the court must make a reasonable
effort to notify you of the release, even if you are not
present in court.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE
It is important to provide
information to the Assistant District Attorney before
the arraignment and bail hearing regarding the history
of the abuse and a description of the most recent abuse,
including any pictures or hospital records of injuries.
You should also mention the location of any guns or
other weapons that you believe the abuser has in his or
The Assistant District
Attorney ill bring this information to the attention of
the judge, along with your safety concerns and fears at
this time. The judge may also consider whether the
defendant/ abuser should be jailed until trial; or, if
the defendant/ abuser is to be released, what the bail
and conditions of bail will be.
The Assistant District
Attorney represents the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in
prosecuting the case , and works with the Victim/Witness
Advocate to address your interests and assist you during
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE
Interviews will be held with
you before the trial, to gather information and evidence
for prosecution. Every effort will be made to consider
your needs and safety in going forward with the case.
The safety of your children will also be priority .
Prosecution may provide the
means to gain batterer’s intervention services for the
defendant/abuser as part of a sentence recommendation.
Very few batterer’s seek or stay with these services on
their own, without court orders and probation
supervision. An Assistant District will speak with you
about different sentences that can be imposed if the
defendant /abuser is found guilty by a judge or jury or
pleads guilty. The sentence asked for may include drug
or alcohol counseling, required attendance at a
batterer’s intervention program, supervised probation
and /or jail time.
WHAT IS A CERTIFIED BATTERER'S
intervention programs provide services in very strict
group settings to try to help batterer’s learn to accept
responsibility for their violence, as well as understand
and change their controlling and abusive behavior.
The groups are led by
certified batterer’s intervention counselor’s trained in
dealing with domestic violence offenders. The programs
work with the courts and victim services to help make
sure that partners of batterer’s remain safe. The
programs may involve weekly sessions of 1 to 2 hours in
length. The batterer must participate in the program for
a minimum of 80 hours. Group leaders feel your safety is
a priority concern and will keep ongoing contact with
WILL THE INTERVENTION STOP THE
There are no guarantees that
the violence will stop because the abuser attends a
certified batterer’s intervention program. Many abusers
drop out of programs or do not comply with the
requirements, or only reduce their abuse temporarily. If
the judge requires attendance as part of a sentence,
dropping out may mean the defendant/ abuser may have to
serve jail time. The abuser must want to change the
abusive behavior and work hard at making those changes.
Promises to change, flowers and apologies are not
enough. You deserve to be safe and free from abuse.
YOUR RISK OF HARM.
Statistically, the most
dangerous time for victim is when leaving the batterer.
The abuser may feel he is losing control and become
dangerously angry. Take steps to protect yourself from
abuse or punishment from your abuser. Please trust your
instincts. If you are afraid that something may happen,
take your feelings seriously and protect yourself. You
know your situation better than anyone else.
SUGGESTIONS FOR PROTECTION.
Develop a safety plan that
includes an escape plan for you and your children should
a violent incident occur. During an incident, try to
move away from an area or room where access to weapons
might increase your risk, such as the kitchen, or where
you can be trapped or easily injured.
Call the police or leave the
house as soon as possible after an abusive incident. The
police will respond and stay with you until you are safe
or in a safe place. The police will also help you seek
medical treatment, if needed. If you feel you may be in
danger, dial the police number and hang up before it
rings, so that the redial button will automatically call
the police if you need them quickly.
Be alert when leaving the
courthouse. If you have any reason to believe your
abuser may be waiting for you, please ask someone in the
District Attorney’s Office or Court Advocate to help. A
police officer or a court officer may be able to escort
you to your car.
Guns or weapons will be
ordered turned over to the police by the judge, along
with any license to carry the guns and firearms
identification card. Inform the police of any
guns/weapons the abuser may keep in the house.
Consider changing the locks on
your home. The judge can order the abuser to turn over
the keys to your home and/or your car. Keep an extra set
of keys in a safe place. Inform your neighbors if a 209A
order is in place. Encourage them to call the police if
they see or suspect that something is wrong. Make copies
of important papers and keep them in a safe place. Make
a list of the things you need to take with you
(birth/medical records, marriage license, check/ bank
books, credit cards, medications). Keep emergency money
and extra clothes for yourself and your children in a
safe place or with someone you trust. Include a few toys
and favorite things for the children. Keep the victim’s
service agency number handy for emergency shelter and
for support groups.; You do not have to leave the abuser
or have a 209A Order to attend the support groups.
Information and support in making decisions are
important. Get Medical attention as you may be injured
much more seriously than you realize. Go to a hospital
emergency room or your private doctor as soon as
possible for treatment. Ask for a copy of the treatment record.