• Overview of Sexual & Domestic Violence

    Definition of Domestic Violence

    Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviors and tactics used by one person over another to gain power and control. This may include verbal abuse, financial abuse, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. Domestic violence occurs in heterosexual, as well as same-sex partnerships, and crosses all ethnic, racial and socio-economic lines.

    Domestic Violence Facts:

    • 95% of Domestic Violence victims are women (U.S. Department of Justice).
    • Over three million women are battered each year (FBI 1990).
    • The Surgeon General has declared Domestic Violence as the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15-44; more than rapes, muggings, and car accidents combined.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites that a woman is in nine times more danger in her own home than on the street
    • Nearly one-third of all women murdered in the US in 1998 were killed by a current or former intimate partner; guns were used in almost two-thirds of the homicides (Homicide Trends in the US, 2001).
    • Thirty-seven percent of all women who sought emergency room treatment for violence-related injuries were injured by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend (US Department of Justice, 1998).
    • Between twelve percent and thirty-five percent of teenagers have experienced some form of violence - from pushing and shoving to hitting - in a dating relationship (Simon and Golden, 1997).

    If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 for the police to come to your aid.

    To talk with someone about your options, call SafeLink at 1-877-785-2020 or TTY 1-877-785-2020. SafeLink is a 24-hour, free and multi-lingual hotline for programs in Massachusetts.

    For additional information regarding domestic violence and sexual assault, please go to Jane Doe, Inc - The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.

    To find the domestic violence program nearest you outside of Massachusetts, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233).

    Definition of a Sexual Assault

    Sexual assault and rape are crimes of violence and control, using sex acts as a weapon. Rape and sexual assault are not sexually motivated acts; rather, they stem from aggression, rage, sexism, and the determination to exercise power over someone else. Rape is also a legal term that is defined in Massachusetts by three elements: penetration of any orifice by any object; force or threat of force; against the will of the victim. Sexual assault is often more broadly defined as any sexual activity that is forced or coerced or unwanted.

    Rape Crisis Centers

    Recognizing Abusive Behaviors


    It is not surprising that many people do not recognize when they are in an abusive relationship. The tactics used by abusers can be subtle and may not require physical abuse to maintain control over their victims. Abuse comes in many forms from physical, emotional, economic and/or sexual. The following list provides examples of abusive behaviors:

    Does he/she?

    Check MarkMonitor your phone calls? Follow you?
    Check MarkContinuously harass you at work either by telephone fax or e-mail?
    Check MarkTake your money, withhold money, make you ask for money, or make you account for the money you spend?
    Check MarkHit, slap, punch, bite, kick, pull your hair, or spit on you?
    Check MarkControl who you see for friends, family or co-workers…. when and where?
    Check MarkThreaten to hurt you, your family members or pets?
    Check MarkThreaten to take the children from you?
    Check MarkThreaten to expose that you are gay to family members, your boss, or the community?
    Check MarkDestroy those possessions and property which he/she knows you treasure?
    Check MarkPressure you into dropping charges or vacate the restraining order?
    Check MarkTell you that they can't live without you or that you will never belong to anyone else?
    Check MarkMake comments intended to degrade you by comparing you with others/ex-partners?
    Check MarkTell you what you can and cannot wear?
    Check MarkDrive recklessly with you and/or your children in the car during or after an argument?
    Check MarkBlock your exit during an argument?
    Check MarkThreaten that if you file charges he/she may lose their job which will ultimately effect insurance and child support payments?
    Check MarkMake non-verbal gestures intended to intimidate you? (i.e. place hands around their neck indicating if you do not comply they will choke you)
    Check MarkExpose you to sexually transmitted diseases so you will be considered "damaged goods?"
    Check MarkForce you to perform sexual acts against your will?
    Check MarkIf he is in counseling, does he use that against you in order to keep you in the relationship?

    For further information:
    Sexual & Domestic Violence Resources

    Sexual & Domestic Violence Related Links

    Sexual & Domestic Violence Legal Information

    MA GL 209A - Abused Person Notice of Rights

    Chapter 209A: ABUSE PREVENTION

    Summary of Notice of Rights for Abuse Victims

    As a victim, the Commonwealth has afforded you certain rights. The Abused Person's Notice of Rights outlines your rights as a victim of domestic violence as provided by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A .

    In accordance with Chapter 209A, you have the right to appear at the Superior Court, Probate and Family District Court or Boston Municipal Court if you reside within the appropriate jurisdiction, and file a complaint requesting the issuance of any of the following orders:

    (a) an order restraining your attacker from abusing you,

    (b) an order directing your attacker to leave the household, building or workplace,

    (c) an order awarding you custody of minor children,

    (d) an order directing your attacker to pay support for you or any minor child in your custody, if the attacker has a legal obligation of support, and/or

    (e) an order directing your attacker to pay you for losses suffered as a result of abuse, including medical and moving expenses, loss of earnings or support, costs for restoring utilities and replacing lockers, reasonable attorney's fees and other out of pocket losses for injuries and property damaged sustained.

    For an emergency on weekends, holidays, or week nights the police will refer you to a Justice of the Superior, Probate and Family, District or Boston Municipal Court Departments.

    You have the right to go to the appropriate Court and seek a criminal complaint for threats, assault and battery, assault with a deadly weapon, assault with intent to kill or other related offenses.

    If you are in need of medical treatment, you have the right to request that the police officer drive you to the nearest hospital or otherwise assist you in obtaining medical treatment.

    If you believe that police protection is needed for your physical safety, you have the right to request that the officer present remain at the scene until you and your children can leave or until your safety is otherwise ensured. You may also request that the officer assist you in locating and taking you to a safe place, including, but not limited to designated meeting place for a shelter or a family member's or friend's residence, or similar place of safety.

    You may request a copy of the police incident report at no cost from the police department. To obtain a restraining order you do not need an attorney and it will not cost you any money.

    Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

    Information regarding filing a Restraining Order for domestic violence victims:

    A restraining order, also referred to as a 209A protective order, is one option for you to consider in seeking safety from your abuser. The information below describes court orders and answers to commonly asked questions such as how to get one, how they are enforced and how to make a decision about seeking an order.

    We encourage people to recognize that restraining orders are only a piece of a larger safety plan. It is important that you make safety plan in addition to obtaining a restraining order. A shelter can help you know what is available to you. Call 1-877-785-2020 to be connected to the program nearest you. In an emergency call 9-1-1 for a police officer to come to your aid. For additional information regarding safety planning, please visit the Jane Doe, Inc - The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence website


    The law for restraining orders (209A) covers those people who are or have been in any of the following relationships:

    • A substantive dating relationship
    • Living together in the same household
    • Engaged or married
    • Have a child together
    • Related by blood or marriage

    How Does A Judge Decide Whether to Issue the Order?

    Under the law, the judge needs to determine:

    • If the relationship is covered by the law, and
    • If the victim has shown "a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse"

    How to Get a Restraining Order

    A legal advocate can make getting a 209A less confusing, and his/her services are free. Call your local battered women's program and ask for assistance or ask at the court if there is a legal advocate available.

    • Go to the Clerk's Office at the courthouse in your community and complete an affidavit requesting a restraining order.
    • You will then need to go before a judge, who will ask you questions about your safety and has the authority to grant a temporary (10 day) restraining order at that time. You will be given a copy to carry with you at all times and a copy to file with the police.
    • The court will tell the police that the order has been issued and the police will then serve the abuser with the order. You should tell the court the whereabouts of the abuser. If there is a vacate order, the police can enforce this by being at your home as the abuser leaves.
    • Within 10 days you will attend another hearing where your abuser may be present to tell his/her side of the story. This may be very difficult, and it helps to have an advocate present for support. You will tell your story again, and at this time the judge can extend the 209A protective order for up to a year.
    • To get an emergency protection order on holidays, nights, or weekends, call the police. They will contact an emergency response judge. If the abuser violates this order, call the police immediately. Violation of this order is a criminal offense, and penalties can include jail terms.

    A Restraining Order Can Do More Than Protect You

    Any of the following provisions that apply to your situation may be added to the basic order. (Note: The initial order lasts up to ten days but can be extended for one year.)

    • Restraining Order - Your abuser must not come near you or abuse you again. In Massachusetts, all restraining orders require that the abuser surrender any firearms and licenses to carry a firearm.
    • Vacate Order - Your abuser must move out of the shared residence.
    • Child Support Order - You will receive temporary support for your children.
    • Custody Order - You will receive temporary custody of your children.
    • Restitution Order - You will receive repayment for lost wages, medical expenses, or other costs and damages.


    • Police Emergency 9-1-1
    • SafeLink, a statewide domestic violence and sexual assault hotline operated by Casa Myrna Vazquez 1-877-785-2020
    • Court advocacy programs within Jane Doe Inc. member programs
    • Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance: 617-727-5200