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Domestic abuse can be sexual, physical, and emotional, and affects people of all ages and backgrounds. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, you aren’t alone.

A 2010 report on intimate partner violence by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control revealed that roughly 31 percent of women and 19 percent of men in Massachusetts had experienced some form of domestic violence.

Understanding Your Legal Rights

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) provides a summary of the legal rights of domestic violence victims in Massachusetts, known as the as the Abused Person’s Notice of Rights.

The Abused Person’s Notice of Rights establishes that anyone who has experienced domestic abuse can file a criminal complaint against their abuser for threats or assault, and can request a restraining order from a Superior Court, Probate and Family District Court, or Boston Municipal Court (if you are a Boston resident).

Under the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A, a restraining order — an order to restrain your abuser from coming near or attacking you — in a domestic violence case can also include the following:

  • Vacate Order — An order for the attacker to leave and stay away from your household
  • Custody Order — An order to take temporary custody of minor children from the attacker
  • Child Support Order — An order for the attacker to provide temporary child support
  • Restitution Order — An order for the attacker to pay for damages caused by abuse, including loss of earnings, medical expenses, and other related expenditures

If police have responded to a domestic dispute call at your home and you are afraid for your safety, you can request that the responding officer remains at the scene until you are able to leave. A police officer can escort you to a safe place — either determined by you or located by the state — or to a hospital for medical treatment if required.

It may feel like there is no way out of your current situation, but EOPSS and the Commonwealth have resources that can help, including listings for domestic violence programs in Massachusetts and a statewide SafeLink hotline at (877) 785-2020.

Tweet us @MassGov or comment below for more information on domestic violence resources and support.

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