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What is Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is not caused by or provoked by the action or inaction 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 duress.
What is a 209A Order?
An Abuse Prevention Order, called a “209A Order”(also known as 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.
- A roomate, regardless of gender or relationship
- A person with whom you have or had a substantial dating relationship.
- A Dorm. roomate, regardless of gender or relationship
- You may obtain an order for a minor child under the age of 18 if you are his/her parent or legal guardian
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 Order and there is no charge for filing.
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. The Groveland Police Department falls under the jurisdiction of the Haverhill District Court at the corner of Rte. 125 and Ginty Blvd. in Haverhill, Ma. ((978) 373 – 4151). If you have fled to another area to avoid abuse, you may go to the District Court in the area where you now live. Go to the Clerk’s Office in the court and ask for a “protective order” or a “209A Order”. You will 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 treatment.
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 custody proceedings.
What relief can I ask for on the Application
You may request the judge to order that the abuser, stop or refrain from abusing you, have no contact with you or a child in your custody and 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 or visitation?
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 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 hearing. 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/she will probably ask you some clarifying questions. In some courts 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 (10) days. A court date will be scheduled within ten (10) court days for you to return to court for a Permanent Order, which lasts for a year and can be renewed. Keep you 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 criminal offense.
What happens at the end of the 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 I do if I 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 Order?
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 violated?
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 by 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 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 (M.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 (M.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 (M.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 away that may cause serious injury or death to another.
- Threats (M.G.L. c. 274, Section 4), which are verbal or written threats to do harm which a victim reasonably believes the abuser can commit.
- Trespassing (MG.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 (M.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 malicious.
- Stalking (M.G.L. c. 265, Section 43), 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 arraignment?
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 her possession. The Assistant District Attorney will 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 trial.
What happens after the arraignment?
Interviews will be held with you before the trial, to gather information and evidence for prosecution. Every effort will be make to consider your needs and safety in going forward with the case. The safety of your children will also be a priority. Prosecution may provide the means to gain batterer’s intervention services for the defendant/ abuser as part of a sentence recommendation. Very few batterers seek or stay with these services on their own, without court orders and probation supervision. An Assistant District Attorney 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.
Will the intervention stop the abuse?
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/abuse 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 the 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.
Annoying or Obscene Telephone Calls
( MA. General Law Ch. 269 S. 14a )
Annoying phone calls are a common problem. These calls can now be traced back to the caller by pressing a couple of buttons on your own phone. Harassing, hang-up, or obscene phone calls are often evident in bad relationships, a disgruntled employee, an unhappy customer, or an angry neighbor. The caller has the sole purpose to harass or annoy the victim, and there is a solution.
Some Initial Steps to Take:
One step to take, if you can afford it and want to take the time, is to change your phone number to a new, unlisted, non-published number. This can obviously be an inconvenience, but if you only give the number to people you know and the calls continue, you have narrowed down who may be responsible. If you can’t take this step for some reason, you will have to trace the calls.
Tracing Phone Calls
VERIZON provides a way to trace the last call made to your phone, providing authorities with information if an investigation is required. To trace a call, follow these steps:
- Hang up and then lift the receiver and wait for dial tone
- Press *57 (or 1157 for rotary phones)
- An announcement will tell you the call was traced and give you further information.
- Call the Groveland Police Department and report the calls, and obtain a CASE NUMBER.
- Call the Unlawful Call Bureau or UCB (1-800-518-5507) for further instructions.
If you have traced 3 or more phone calls you will be notified. When you receive this notification, call the Groveland Police and give the investigating officer the case number given to you by the UCB. The officer will contact the UCB and get the information on where the calls came from. The officer will contact you with this info, and assist you if further investigation is needed. Sometimes, when a victim hears the name of the caller they may wish to handle the situation themselves without further police involvement.