Do I Need a Restraining Order?
A restraining order, also called an order of protection or abuse prevention order, can be a powerful tool for increasing safety of victims of sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, and stalking and their children.
A restraining is an important legal option for victims and survivors. It is most effective in combination with a larger confidential plan for safety that can be developed in consultation with a trained advocate from a local sexual assault or domestic violence program. Whether or not you may feel that physical danger is imminent, consulting with a trained advocate can provide you with important information and support. For instance, an advocate can talk to you about safety considerations, necessary qualifications, court processes, possible relief, resources and other considerations before seeking a protection order. Services are free and confidential. No one from a local sexual assault or domestic violence program will force you to do anything.
Courts have the authority to issue an order for the abuser (assailant) to no longer abuse you and/or have no further contact with you. A restraining order is a civil order, which means that it in itself does not carry criminal penalties. But if any of the provisions of the order are violated, then there is a criminal penalty AND the police have a right to arrest the abuser.
District, superior, and probate courts can issue two different types of restraining orders in Massachusetts.
- 209A Abuse Prevention Orders is generally applicable when there has been some form of abuse from a family or household member, or someone with whom you have a substantial dating relationship.
- 258E Harassment Prevention Orders is available in cases of sexual violence and stalking and is applicable when the parties are not known to each other or have not been in a relationship.
If you have a restraining order, ALWAYS KEEP YOUR COPY OF THE COURT ORDER WITH YOU!
IN AN EMERGENCY CALL 911.
For support, call the sexual or domestic violence program nearest you.
Another resource is the NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE at: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
You can also find detailed multilingual instructions and checklists on the MassLegalHelp website. This website explains how to file 209A forms and use the forms the Court has translated into 8 languages.