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Protection Orders: Massachusetts Lends Help to Domestic Violence Victims

According to Protectionorder.org, "1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year in the United States."

Unfortunately, abused individuals often fail, or are unable, to protect themselves for one reason or another. Many do not know protection orders exist, how to obtain one, whether they qualify, or they fear reprisal from their abuser. However, several resources are available to abused men and women. These resources help to explain the benefits of protection orders and how they may be used to prevent future domestic violence.

Eligibility: Do you Qualify?

The state of Massachusetts has a compelling interest to protect its constituents from physical harm. Therefore, as laid out by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety, many people are eligible for a protection order. Eligible individuals include those who have:

  • Been in a "substantive" dating relationship with their abuser
  • Lived with their abuser in the same household
  • Are engaged or married to their abuser
  • Have a child with their abuser, or
  • Are related to their abuser by blood or marriage

What Does a Protection Order Do?

The most common protection order is a restraining order; an order mandating your abuser not come near you or abuse you again. Other conditions may be added to the restraining order as well. For example, an abuser may be ordered to vacate a shared residence, pay child support, or the abused may receive sole custody of children.

The penalty for violating a protection order may include a hefty fine and significant jail time.

How to Obtain a Protection Order

Initially, the most important thing a petitioner can do is speak with an attorney or legal advocate to determine if a protection order is appropriate for his or her situation. Assuming a protection order is appropriate, a person must request one formally, then stand before a judge who may issue a temporary order for protection.

Next, the accused is usually granted the opportunity to present his or her story of events at a formal hearing. This is often the most difficult part of the process and it is beneficial to have your legal representative in attendance. Once this process is completed, a judge may extend a protection order for up to a full year.

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