Legal Options: Know Your Rights

Abuse is a crime. All people—adults, teens and children—have the right to legal protection from abuse. There are court orders available that can make it illegal for someone to contact you, harass you, and/or abuse you. Minors are allowed to seek protective orders; however, if you are especially young, the court may require that a parent or guardian accompany you in court.

Download the Aftermath of Crime by the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance. It provides more information about legal options, courts, and procedures.

What Are My Options?

A Restraining Order (or 209A) is the most common order issued for domestic abuse. It can be filed against anyone you have a relationship with, such as a family member, someone you are dating, someone you used to date, or a housemate.

A Harassment Prevention Order (or 258E) is meant to protect a person from being harassed or stalked by someone other than a spouse or domestic partner.

Do I Qualify?

Find more information about the requirements for obtaining an abuse prevention order on the Legal Services Prevention Orders Page.

Reporting Abuse

Some adults are required by law to report certain types of child abuse to Child Protection Services, the designated agencies that investigate abuse and find ways to protect youth. When you are deciding who to tell, ask people if they're required to report abuse. You can ask them to explain what that means and what would happen if you told them you were a victim of a crime. Then you can decide what you want to do.

SAFEPLAN in the courts!

SAFEPLAN is a program that provides support to victims going through the process of obtaining a 209A or 258E in the court. A SAFEPLAN Court Advocate can:

  • Help to assess and identify any needs you may have
  • Give you information about your legal rights and options in court proceedings
  • Help you with restraining order and harassment prevention order paperwork
  • Help you develop a safety plan
  • Help you understand the court process and laws around prevention orders
  • Offer information and education about domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking
  • Give you information about other resources available to you
  • Provide you with in-court advocacy and support

Visit The Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance's page on SAFEPLAN for more information or to find your nearest SAFEPLAN program.

Dating Violence and the Law (National Center for Victims of Crime)

If you are a victim of dating violence, know your rights:

Legal options include reporting to the police, obtaining protective orders, and cooperating with criminal prosecution.

In 39 states and the District of Columbia, victims of dating violence can apply for protective orders against the perpetrator. Age requirements and other details vary by state.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws against dating violence behaviors such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. However, the specific term "dating violence" is almost never used in these laws.