As victims take the important step of choosing to leave a violent relationship,
their risk of serious physical injury and even death by the abuser increases
dramatically. Court Advocates help orient clients, answer clients’ questions about procedures and court personnel, decipher unfamiliar and seemingly mystifying behaviors, and offer nonjudgmental support and encouragement. Risk assessment, safety planning and referrals to viable, effective, and appropriate resources are crucial to the health and well-being of the victims and their families during this period of heightened risk.
One of the options a victim may choose is to seek a restraining order (209A protective
order). However, protection orders do not guarantee your safety.
A restraining order, also referred to as a 209A protective order,
is one option to consider in seeking safety from an abuser. The information
below describes court orders and how to get one, how they are enforced
and how to make a decision about seeking an order.
Restraining orders are only a piece of a larger safety plan. It
is important that you make a safety plan in addition to obtaining a
restraining order. A shelter can help you know what is available
to you. Call 1-877-785-2020 to be connected to the program nearest you.
In an emergency call 9-1-1 for police assistance.
The law for restraining orders (209A) covers those people who are
or have been in any of the following relationships:
- A substantive dating relationship
- Living together in the same household
- Engaged or married
- Have a child together
- Related by blood or marriage
How Does A Judge Decide Whether to Issue the Order?
Under the law, the judge needs to determine:
- If the relationship is covered by the law, and
- If the victim has shown "a substantial likelihood of immediate
danger of abuse"
How to Get a Restraining Order
A legal advocate can make getting a 209A less confusing, and his/her
services are free. Call your local battered women's program and
ask for assistance or ask at the court if there is a legal advocate
- Go to the Clerk's Office at the courthouse in your community
and complete an affidavit requesting a restraining order.
- You will then need to go before a judge, who will ask you
questions about your safety and has the authority to grant a temporary
(10 day) restraining order at that time. You will be given a copy
to carry with you at all times and a copy to file with the police.
- The court will tell the police that the order has been issued
and the police will then serve the abuser with the order. You should
tell the court the whereabouts of the abuser. If there is a vacate
order, the police can enforce this by being at your home as the
- Within 10 days you will attend another hearing where your
abuser may be present to tell his/her side of the story. This may
be very difficult, and it helps to have an advocate present for
support. You will tell your story again, and at this time the judge
can extend the 209A protective order for up to a year.
- To get
an emergency protection order on holidays, nights, or weekends,
call the police. They will contact an emergency response judge.
If the abuser violates this order, call the police immediately. Violation
of this order is a criminal offense, and penalties can include jail terms.
A Restraining Order Can Do More Than Protect You
Any of the following provisions that apply to your situation may
be added to the basic order. (Note: The initial
order lasts up to ten days but can be extended for one year.)
- Restraining Order - Your abuser must not come near you or
abuse you again. In Massachusetts, all restraining orders require
that the abuser surrender any firearms and licenses to carry a
- Vacate Order - Your abuser must move out of the shared
- Child Support Order - You will receive temporary support
for your children.
- Custody Order - You will receive temporary custody
of your children.
- Restitution Order - You will receive repayment for lost wages,
medical expenses, or other costs and damages.
- Police Emergency: 9-1-1
- Domestic Violence SafeLink: 1-877-785-2020
- Court advocacy programs
within Jane Doe Inc. member
- Massachusetss Bar Association www.massbar.org
The Massachusetts Bar Association provides referrals for people of any income level. They have regular and reduced-fee referrals by legal specialty and geographic area. There is a nominal fee.
Office of Victim Assistance: 617-727-5200
- Mass Legal Help www.masslegalhelp.org
- South Middlesex Legal Services: 800-696-1501
Provides legal assistance to low income clients.
- WomensLaw.org www.womenslaw.org
- The Network/LaRed: 617-695-0877
or email them
- Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project:
617-497-7317 or email them