Domestic violence is more than just a single instance of physical abuse. Each state defines domestic violence based on certain criteria, often investigating a series of abusive claims.

Massachusetts legislature defines domestic violence as nearly any criminal act of abuse committed by a “family or household member” against another. What does the law consider abuse?

Types of abuse

Massachusetts defines abuse as:

  • Trying to inflict or directly causing physical harm
  • Putting another person under threat of imminent physical harm
  • Forcing another to engage in sexual relations against their own will using threats, force, or duress

Many cases of domestic violence involve all the above abuses, but may even extend to other crimes. Abusers may use economic control, neglect and emotional abuse. Abusers will often commit crimes like assault and battery, witness intimidation and even violations of protective orders.

Massachusetts considers spouses, cohabitants, blood relatives, co-parents, and those involved in long-term relationships as “household members.” Committing assault against one’s family could incur a $5,000 fine and up to two and a half years in corrective housing. Successive assaults could put an abuser in jail for up to five years. Massachusetts courts also require many abusers to complete batterer’s intervention programs.

Legal protections for Massachusetts residents

In response to domestic violence, Massachusetts residents may take advantage of a few legal protections. Victims of domestic violence may apply for a “209A order” — a protective order that can provide emergency, temporary or permanent protection measures for victims. Victims may also enter the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP), which will provide a legal substitute address. These measures help prevent an abuser from learning a victim’s location.

A civil lawsuit is also an option for victims and would allow them to recover losses for medical expenses or pain and suffering. A local lawyer familiar with family law can help manage all the legal aspects of such a claim. Victims of domestic abuse may also seek the services of an attorney to help make amendments to child custody, child support or spousal support agreements.