Abuse prevention orders

Massachusetts has a statute that authorizes the courts to protect someone who has been abused or threatened with abuse from a family member or household member. Abuse is defined as physical harm, being placed in fear of imminent serious physical harm, or being forced to engage involuntarily in sexual relations. The abused and abuser must be family or household members, the definition of which includes people who have been in a “substantive dating relationship,” people that “are or were related by blood or marriage,” and people who have a child in common regardless of whether they have ever been married to each other or lived together. A violation of an abuse prevention order is considered a crime. A 2012 amendment to the statute added protection for domestic animals; this change in the law made a lot of sense, because many abusers harm household pets, or threaten to abuse the pet, and use the presence of the animal to keep the abused person from seeking assistance. If the abuse occurs when the courts are closed, which often is the case, the local police can assist by obtaining an order from the emergency judge on call, which is always available. While rational people typically comply with court orders, an abuse prevention order will not stop someone who is irrational or truly intent on harming another person, so it is always wise to seek counsel and take all steps to protect both family and pets.