Generally, domestic violence cases involve spouses, former spouses, cohabitants, or those in a dating relationship. While domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior of coercive control over an intimate partner, in criminal prosecution it is limited primarily to assaultive or threatening behavior. In the criminal context, "domestic violence" describes many kinds of criminal conduct ranging from murder under G.L. c. 265 §1 through stalking and other assaults contained in c.265, property crimes found in c.266, witness intimidation in c.268 §13b, and threats to commit a crime in c.275 §2-6.  

Nevertheless, it is important to remember the context of domestic violence represented by a single criminal event. The context of behavior can take on many different forms of coercion and is grounded by the abuser's desire to control the victim. The Power and Control Wheel, developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, in Duluth, Minnesota, is a particularly helpful tool in understanding the overall pattern of abusive and violent behaviors used by batterers to establish and maintain control over their partner. Very often, one or more violent incidents are accompanied by an array of these other types of abuse, less easily identified, but firmly establishing a pattern of intimidation and control.  

Throughout this protocol, victims may be identified as women because over 95% of the cases that the Domestic Violence Unit has handled involve male on female violence. There is some evidence that domestic violence occurs just as frequently in gay or lesbian relationships as it does in heterosexual relationships. Moreover, there have also been a handful of cases where a woman has engaged in coercive control over her male intimate partner.  

Goals of the prosecution

Domestic violence will be treated as a serious crime against the state and prosecuted fully to avoid continuation and escalation of the violence. Special procedures shall be implemented to further the prosecution and achieve the goals of prosecution. The goals are:

  • To stop the violence
  • To protect the victim, children, and other family members
  • To hold the offender accountable for violent conduct and deter future violence
  • To manage any ongoing threat posed by the offender
  • To protect the public
  • To uphold legislative intent, as well as reinforce judicial guidelines, which treat domestic violence as serious criminal conduct