Women's Health and Education Center (WHEC)

Violence Against Women

Print this ArticleShare this Article

Legal Primer On Massachusetts Family Violence Law

Anyone who is or has been placed in fear of imminent serious harm; forced to engage in sexual relations; is or has been physically harmed or someone has attempted to harm. The person who did this is a family member (past or present); former or current spouse; household member (past or present); or a person with whom you are or were in a dating or engagement relationship.

What can the police do?
Under the current law, the police called to the scene ofa domestic assault must make an arrest when they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. They may remove the offender from the home or issue a summons ordering the offender to appear in court the next day. The police must transport the victim to a medical facility if medical care is required and provide information about services available to the victim and her family. If the police believe there is probable cause to arrest a victim, they must do so.

What court orders can help a victim or domestic violence?
Under the Abuse Law, "you have the right to go to the superior, probate and family, district or Boston municipal court if you reside withing the appropriate jurisdiction, and file a complaint requesting any of the following applicable orders:

  1. An order restraining your attacker from abusing you
  2. An order directing your attacker to leave your household
  3. An order awarding you custody of a minor child
  4. An order directing your attacker to pay support for you or any minor child in your custody if the attacker has a legal obligation to support them
  5. An order directing your attacker to pay you for the losses suffered as a result of the abuse, including medical and moving expenses, loss of earnings or support, attorneys fees and other out-of-pocket losses for injuries sustained."

Who can help a woman through the court process?
Advocates at the local Battered Women Shelters are experienced in the court's response to domestic violence cases. These advocates work in the criminal court system to help guide victims through the legal process and keep them informed of the status of their case. Women Shelter Advocates can be reached through their hotline numbers.

Is there any help for offenders?
There are programs for people who are violent and want help in changing their behaviors. Look for a certified batterer's program, such as the Men's Resource Center's "Men Overcoming Violence" or MOVE. This is a 40 week group therapy and education program specifically designed for batterers.

What about mandated reporting of victims of abuse?
There are no reporting requirements regarding the abuse or suspected abuse of non-disabled individuals between ages 15 and 60.

However, health care professionals are mandated by state law to report cases of suspected abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect of children, the elderly or disabled. The state protective agencies listed below:

  • Child At Risk Hotline - 800.792.5200 or Department of Social Services - 413.493.2600
  • Elder Abuse Rotline - 800.922.2275
  • Disabled Abuse Rotline - 800.426.9009

Published: 14 October 2009

Women's Health & Education Center
Dedicated to Women's and Children's Well-being and Health Care Worldwide