Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Resources Available During COVID-19 -Updated 6/10/2020

The following information is prepared by the Somerville Police Department's Family Services Unit.


1. What is domestic violence? 

2. How do I know if I am in an abusive relationship?

3. How can I stay safe?

4. Where can I get help?

5. How can I help a friend or relative who is in an abusive relationship?

6. What is a 209A Order?

7. Do I qualify for a 209A Order?

8. How long does the 209A order last?

9. How do I obtain a 209A Order?

10. Does it cost money to apply for a 209A order?

11. What happens if the abuser does not follow the order?

12. Can the abusive person still see the children? Will he/she still pay child support?

13. I am being stalked by my ex-partner, what should I do?


1. What is domestic violence?

 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 injry, 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 difference 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 are experienced Detectives 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 additonal domestic violence supoort services.

magnifying Domestic violence is very dangerous. Please reach out for support if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence.

2. How do I know if I am in an abusive relationship?

 Does your partner....

  1. Call you names or put you down?
  2. Look at you or act in ways that scare or intimidate you?
  3. Control who you see or talk to, or what you do?
  4. Stop you from seeing friends or family members?
  5. Frequently accuse you of cheating on him/her?
  6. Take your money or limit your access to money?
  7. Threaten to take your kids away or harm them?
  8. Make all the decisions?
  9. Act like abuse is no big deal, your fault, or deny doing it?
  10. Blame you for his/her problems?
  11. Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?
  12. Push, slap, hit, or kick you?
  13. Force you to have sex?
  14. Threaten to hurt or kill you?
  15. Threaten to harm or kill someone you know?

If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, you may be in a domestic violence relationship and help is available.

3. How can I stay safe?

 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 efective 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.

magnifying Remember to review your safety plan routinely and make changes if necessary.

4. Where can I get help?

 24-Hour Assistance


 Safelink ---  1-877-785-2020 
 Respond, Inc. ---   617-623-5900
National Domestic Violence Hotline ---   1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

 National Sexual Assault Hotline

---  1-800-656-HOPE (4673)


Shelter & Support

Somerville Police Family Services ---  617-625-1600 Ext. 7279 
 RESPOND, Inc. ---  617-623-5900
 Transition House ---  617-661-7203
 Cambridge Health Alliance ---  617-591-6033
 The Family Center ---  617-628-8815
 The Guidance Center ---  617-629-3919
 The HAVEN Program at Massachusetts General Hospital ---  617-724-0054
The Child Witness to Violence Program at Boston Medical Center ---  617-414-4522
Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) ---  1-800-841-8371


Teen Dating Violence Resources

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline  ---  1-866-331-9474


LGBT Support & Resources

The Network / La Red  ---  617-742-4911
 Fenway Violence Recovery Program ---  617-927-6250
 Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project --- 1-800-832-1901 


Legal Services

Greater Boston Legal Services (Cambridge / Somerville Office) ---   617-603-2700
 Victims Rights Law Center ---   617-399-6720
 Community Legal Services & Counseling Center ---   617-661-1010


5. How can I help a friend or relative who is in an abusive relationship?

  1.  Make time for the person when he/she is ready for your support. Talk in private.
  2. Listen. Believe what your friend is telling you.
  3. Don't judge or blam him/her.
  4. Express why you are concerned, provide specific examples.
  5. Acknowledge and validate the feelings he/she has about the relationship and the abusive partner.
  6. Let your friend know violence is not his/her fault.
  7. 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.
  8. Offer to find information for your friend. Educate yourself about relationship violence.
  9. Let your friend know you are there if he/she needs more support.
  10. Keep the information private, do not tel other friends or family members.

What can I say to my friend/or relative?

  1. "I am concerned for your safety."
  2. "I am sorry this is happened to you."
  3. "You did nothing to deserve this."
  4. "I will be there when you need me."
  5. "You deserve better than this."

6. What is a 209A Order?

 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 tempoary 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 assit 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 calls is directed to the correct city.

Talk to your children and teenagers about domestic violence and safety.

magnifyingViolation of a Restraining Order is a crime. Contact the police if the abusive person does not follow the order.

7. Do I qualify for a 209A 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 a sexual activity.

One or more of the following relationships must exist for you to  apply for a 209A Order:

  1. You are or were in a substantial dating relationship.
  2. You are married or were married.
  3. You currently live together or have lived together in the past.
  4. You are related by blood or marriage.
  5. You share a child.

8. How long does the 209A order last?

 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 aso 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 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.

9. How do I obtain a 209A order?

 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 refered 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 aso 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 additonal 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 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.

10. Does it cost money to apply for a 209A order?

 No, there are no costs associated with obtaining a restraining order.

11. What happens if the abuser does not follow the 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.

12. Can the abusive person still see the children? Will he/she still pay child support?

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 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.

13. I am being stalked by my ex-partner, what should I do?

Trust your instincts. Don’t downplay the danger. If you feel you are unsafe, you probably are. Take threats seriously. Danger generally is higher when the stalker talks about suicide or murder, or when a victim tries to leave or end the relationship. The Somerville Police Department has a Family Services Bureau that handles a variety of crimes like sexual assault and abusive relationships. They can help you devise a safety plan, give you information about local laws, refer you to other services, and weigh options such as seeking a protection order.

They can work with you to develop a safety plan, including things like changing your routine, arranging a place to stay, and having a friend or relative go places with you. Also, decide in advance what to do if the stalker shows up at your home, work school, or somewhere else.

Tell people how they can help you. Don’t communicate with the stalker or respond to attempts to contact you. Keep evidence of the stalking. When the stalker follow you or contacts you, write down the time, date and place. Keep e-mails, phone messages, letter, or notes. Photograph anything of yours the stalker damages and any injuries the stalker causes. As witnesses to write down what they saw. 

Every state has stalking laws. The stalker may also have broken other laws in doing things like assaulting you or stealing or destroying your property. The Massachusetts Law Governing Cyber Stalking are as follows:

M.G.L. c. 265, s. 43: Stalking; Punishment

... willfully and maliciously engaging in conduct that seriously alarms or annoys a specific person and would cause reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress and makes a threat with the intent to place person in fear of death or bodily injury. Such conduct, acts or threats include, but are not limited to, conduct, acts or threats conducted by mail or by use of a telephonic or telecommunication device including, but not limited to, electronic mail, Internet communications and facsimile communications. Stalking is a felony that is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for up to five years or by a fine of not more than $1000, or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than two and one-half years or both.

Consider getting a court order that tells the stalker to stay away from you. Tell family, friends, roommates, and co-workers about the stalking and seek their support. Tell security staff at your job or school. Ask them to help watch out for your safety.

 If you have any 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.

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