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.
Chapter 209A of the Massachusetts General Laws deals with the abuse between intimate partners, family or household members. The complete law can be found by clicking here M.G.L. Chapter 209A.
Chapter 209A, the Massachusetts Abuse Prevention Act, defines abuse as:
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.
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 from any Police Department after the normal business hours of the Court, such as on weekends and holidays. You do not need a lawyer to file for a 209A Order and there is no charge for filing.
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. 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 treatment.
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.
For additional information concerning domestic violence, please visit the Massachusetts Government Website.