The following information is prepared by the Somerville Police Department's Family Services Unit.
- What is domestic violence?
- How do I know if I am in an abusive relationship?
- How can I stay safe?
- Where can I get help?
- How can I help a friend or relative who is in an abusive relationship?
- What is a 209A Order?
- Do I Qualify for a 209A Order?
- How long does the 209A order last?
- How do I obtain a 209A Order?
- Does it cost money to apply for a 209A order?
- What happens if the abuser does not follow the order?
- Can the abusive person still see the children? Will he/she still pay child support?
The Massachusetts Coalition against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Jane Doe Inc., defines domestic violence as:
Domestic violence, also known as battering, is a pattern of behavior where one person tries to control the thoughts, beliefs or actions of a partner, friend or any other person close to them. While the violence may cause injury, it does not have to be physical. Domestic violence also takes the form of emotional, verbal, mental, sexual and economic abuse.
Domestic violence occurs in all neighborhoods to people of all different backgrounds. It is an issue communities need to be aware of and working to end.
Help is available at the Somerville Police Department. Within the Family Services Unit, there is an experienced Detective, Sergeant, and victim advocate to assist you. You can reach the office by calling the non-emergency police department phone number, 617-625-1600, and ask to be connected to the Family Services Unit. Refer to the community resources listed below for additional domestic violence support services.
Domestic violence is very dangerous. Please reach out for support if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence.
Does your partner…
- Call you names or put you down?
- Look at you or act in ways that scare or intimidate you?
- Control who you see or talk to, or what you do?
- Stop you from seeing friends or family members?
- Frequently accuse you of cheating on him/her?
- Take your money or limit your access to money?
- Threaten to take your kids away or harm them?
- Make all the decisions?
- Act like abuse is no big deal, your fault, or deny doing it?
- Blame you for his/her problems?
- Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?
- Push, slap, hit, or kick you?
- Force you to have sex?
- Threaten to hurt or kill you?
- Threaten to harm or kill someone you know?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be in a domestic violence relationship and help is available.
Developing a safety plan can help you stay safe in an abusive relationship, when you are preparing to leave the relationship, after you have left the relationship, and when you have a restraining order.
A safety plan is a tool to help you identify options, evaluate those options, and commit to a plan to reduce your risk in a violent or potentially violent situation. There is no right or wrong way to develop a safety plan; however, safety plans are most effective when they are specific to your situation. Domestic violence advocates are available to help you create a safety plan. Contact the police victim advocate for assistance or refer to the community resources listed below.
**Remember to review your safety plan routinely and make changes if necessary**
617-625-1600 ext 7279
- Make time for the person when he/she is ready for your support. Talk in private.
- Listen. Believe what your friend is telling you.
- Do not judge or blame him/her.
- Express why you are concerned, provide specific examples.
- Acknowledge and validate the feelings he/she has about the relationship and the abusive partner.
- Let your friend know violence is not his/her fault.
- Support his/her right to make decisions. Although you want to tell your friend/family member to leave the relationship because you are concerned, it is important he/she is empowered to make his/her own decisions.
- Offer to find information for your friend. Educate yourself about relationship violence.
- Let your friend know you are there if he/she needs more support.
- Keep the information private, do not tell others friends or family members.
What can I say to my friend or relative?
- “I am concerned for your safety”
- “I’m sorry this happened to you”
- “You did nothing to deserve this”
- “I will be there when you need me”
- “You deserve better than this”
The Abuse Prevention Law, Chapter 209A, was created to keep you and your family safe from abuse. The court can issue a 209A Order, also known as a restraining order, instructing your partner to stop abusing you. Depending on your situation, the judge may also grant you temporary custody of the children, order the abuser to vacate the residence, stay away from you, stop contacting you, surrender firearms, and pay temporary child support.
A restraining order is only one tool available to increase your safety. It is important to also develop a personalized safety plan for you and your children. A domestic violence advocate can assist you with this.
If you decide to obtain a restraining order, keep a copy with you at all times. It is also important to leave copies at work, children’s school or day care, in your car, and with family, friends or neighbors.
Call 9-1-1 in an emergency. Keep cell phone charged and with you at all times. If you are using a cell phone, state your location FIRST to ensure your call is directed to the correct city.
Talk to your children and teenagers about domestic violence and safety.
Violation of a Restraining Order is a crime. Contact the police if the abusive person does not follow the order.
You are eligible for a 209A order, also known as a restraining order, if you have been physically abused or threatened with violence, if you are fearful for your safety, or if you have been forced to engage in sexual activity.
One or more of the following relationships must exist for you to apply for a
- You are or were in a substantial dating relationship
- You are married or were married
- You currently live together or have lived together in the past
- You are related by blood or marriage
- You share a child
During regular business hours, go to the Clerk’s office of the District, Superior, or Probate & Family Court in your area. If you have fled to another area for your safety, applying in that area will reveal where you have relocated to, speak to an advocate for safer options.
Let the court know you need to file for a 209A order. You will complete an affidavit (a sworn statement) explaining your situation and describing why you are seeking a protection order. You will also be asked to provide information about the defendant, including his/her name, date of birth, identifying information, phone number, address, work address and phone number if applicable, etc. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for the police to serve the defendant if the order is granted. After the paperwork is completed, you will go before a judge who may ask you questions about your situation to decide whether or not a protection order is to be issued.
If you need a protection order at night or on the weekend, the Somerville Police Department can help you apply for an emergency restraining order. The emergency order is only valid until the court opens again, you will have to go before a judge at that time.
Many courts have court-based victim advocates who can assist you in this process. If the court does not employ a victim advocate, the police V.A. may be available to support you through the process.
A judge will decide whether or not to grant the protection order, based on the information you provide. If issued, the order typically is temporary, valid for 10-14 days. A hearing will be scheduled on the day the temporary order expires; this hearing is often referred to as a “ten-day hearing”. If you would like to extend the order, you must appear in court at the scheduled time. The defendant, if served the temporary order, will also appear on that date. If you do not appear for the hearing to extend the order, the judge will vacate it and it will no longer be valid. If the defendant has been served the restraining order and does not show up, the order will be automatically extended. If the defendant has not been served, the judge may continue the hearing for another date, allowing additional time for the police to serve the defendant. If both parties are present, the judge will hear from each side and decide whether to extend the order. The order may be extended up to one year or permanently in some cases. If the order is issued for one year, you must return to court at the end of one year for it to be renewed, otherwise it will expire.
No. There are no costs associated with obtaining a restraining order.
Once the order is served, it is a criminal offense if violated. Report any violations to the local police department. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you are in danger.
The judge may order temporary custody to the person seeking the restraining order. The judge may also issue a “no contact” order prohibiting the abuser from having any contact with minor children. You may also request that the judge order the abusive person to pay child support.
If there are family issues such as these, it is best to seek a restraining order in the Family & Probate Court in your area. The Family and Probate court has jurisdiction on issues such as child custody, paternity, support, visits (whether supervised or unsupervised), divorce, etc.
If you have questions that are not addressed above, please contact the Somerville Police Department’s Family Services Unit, 617-625-1600 ext. 7279 to speak to the victim advocate.