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What if the abuser files a protective order or criminal case against me?

 

Many times abusers try to get 209A protective orders against their victims in order to get back at them. Judges know this. The judge may not give the abuser a protective order against you even if he asks for one. But sometimes abusive people are able to get protective orders against their victims.

If you try to get a protective order and the person who abused you also asks for one against you, the court may write up “mutual restraining orders.” This means that each of you has a protective order against the other. If a judge orders mutual restraining orders, the law says that the judge has to write down the reasons why she is writing restraining orders against both of you.  She also has to write down who the “primary aggressor” is. This means that the judge has to decide which person is most likely to abuse the other. She needs to write this down so that the police will know what to do if there is a problem.  See Abuse Prevention Guidelines 6:07 (page 136).

If you get served with a 209A protective order against you, take it seriously. Go to the hearing, no matter what anyone tells you. If you don't go to the hearing, the judge may give the person who abused you a protective order against you. You do not want that to happen, for many reasons:

  • The abuser may lie about you or make up things you did so he can get a criminal case filed against you.
  • If the abuser gets an order against you, it takes attention away from his own abusive behavior. It makes it seem like the domestic violence was your fault as much as it was his fault.
  • It is dangerous for you. If you each have protection orders against each other, the police may not know what to do when there is a problem. You might have trouble getting the police to arrest him for violating your order. This makes you less safe.
  • It lets the abuser hurt you by using the very system that was set up to protect you.

Go to court on the date of the hearing and tell the judge what really happened. If you can, talk to an advocate or a lawyer before going to court. Try to get an advocate or lawyer to help you in this hearing. If you cannot  find an advocate or lawyer to help you, there are some things you should make sure you tell the judge at the hearing. If any of the following things are true in your case, remember to tell the judge:

  • You are the victim of domestic violence. If you can, tell the judge about the history of how the other person has abused you, past injuries, medical records, police calls, etc. Bring police or medical reports, pictures, or witnesses if you can. If you don't have any of these things, make sure to tell the judge some details about what happened.
  • If you think the abuser is only trying to get an order against you because you left him, or because you have an order out against him, or because he is trying to get custody, or because you have a new boyfriend, or because his buddies told him to, etc. - tell the judge.
  • If you never physically hurt or tried to physically hurt the person who abused you, tell the judge.
  • If you never made him scared of being physically hurt by you, tell the judge.
  • If you never made him have sex with you against his will, tell the judge.

Before you go into the courtroom, read the statement (“affidavit") that the abuser filled out when he got his temporary order. You can get this affidavit from the file in the clerk's office. If there are statements in that affidavit that are not true, tell the judge the truth.

The judge should only issue a mutual 209A protective order (one that is against both of you) if she believes that you are each truly in danger from the other. If the judge does issue an order against both of you, she must write down the facts that made her decide that you are both in danger from each other. Her written report of these facts is called her "findings." If the judge gives the abuser a protective order against you, ask for a written copy of the findings. You may want to show them to a lawyer or advocate and think about filing an appeal.

What do I do if the abuser files a criminal complaint against me?

Sometimes, abusers try to "get revenge" by filing criminal charges against their victims. You should take this very seriously. If he files criminal charges against you, you will need a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court should appoint one for you if any jail time is possible.

Make sure you tell your lawyer the history of domestic violence and that you are the true victim.  Each District Attorney's office has different ways of dealing with these "retaliatory" cases (cases where an abuser files criminal charges against his victim as a way of getting back at her). The Assistant District Attorney may know the history of your case and may not believe the abuser's story. The Assistant DA might drop the charges and not go forward with a criminal case against you. That is the best thing that can happen. But you cannot be sure the DA will drop the case.  (See Criminal Complaints for more information about what happens in criminal cases)


Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services. Updated and revised by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp
Last updated February, 2012


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