Working with the police

Also in
Show Endnotes
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

It is up to you if you want help from the police when someone is abusing you. You do not have to call the police or report what happened to you. But sometimes the police get involved even if you don’t call them. Other people, like neighbors, may call the police.

Do I have to call the police?

No, you do not have to call the police. Some people believe the police can help them stop the abuse. Other people do not want to deal with the police. If you report a crime to the police or if the police witness a crime happening, the criminal court will probably get involved.

One thing to know is that the police are “mandated reporters” of child abuse or neglect. The police must report to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) if they think your child is being abused or neglected. They can report to DCF just because you told them that your children were there when something abusive happened, even if your children were not hurt. See our DCF section for more information about DCF. 

If you want to stop the abuse but you do not want to go to the police, you can ask for a 209A restraining order. Getting a 209A restraining order will not send the abusive person to jail. But if you get a restraining order and the abusive person does something that the order says they can’t do, they are “violating” the order. Violating a 209A restraining order can be a crime. The person may end up going to jail if they violate a 209A restraining order.

If I call the police will they file criminal charges against the abusive person?

Maybe. The police can file criminal charges if someone is committing a crime. Dial 911 if you want to call the police while the abuse is happening or right afterward. If the police witness a crime happening, they can arrest the person who did it and the abuser will end up in criminal court. The police will write a report about what they saw.

If you want to make a report to the police later, call the police non-emergency number or go to the police station. The police will write a report about what you tell them.

Sometimes the police do not do anything else after you file a report. Sometimes the police do an investigation. They may contact the abusive person to get their side of the story before deciding what to do. If they have "reasonable cause” to believe a crime happened, they can file a criminal complaint or make an arrest.

If the police file a criminal complaint, there is a hearing where a Clerk Magistrate decides whether to charge the abusive person with a crime. You might be asked to come to that hearing as the victim/witness.

If I call the police, what will they put in their report?

If you call the police or go to the police station to report a crime, they will write a report. Some of the things that they may put in their report are:

  • what you tell them. This is called your “statement;”
  • what the abusive person tells them, if they speak with them. This is their “statement;”
  • statements from other people who may have seen or heard the abuse;
  • a description of the place where the abuse happened;
  • things that they see, like you or your child crying, furniture turned over, broken objects, red marks or bruises or other injuries on you or your child;
  • the time they got the call from you or someone else, the time they showed up, and the name of the officers who came to the scene; and
  • any other information they think is important, like the abusive person was drunk, or whether they offered you medical attention.

They may attach photographs if you have injuries that can be seen. 

Can I get a copy of the police report?

Yes, it is a good idea to get a copy of the report. Survivors of domestic violence have the right to get a free copy of police reports where they are the victim.

If you want a copy of your police report, you can ask for one from the police department. If you live in Boston, you have to go to Headquarters and fill out a form. If you have any trouble getting a copy, ask to speak to a supervisor at the police station.

If your case is in criminal court, you can also call the District Attorney's office to get a copy of the police report. You can find the DA’s office on the website for the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association. You can also call your local district court and ask for the DA’s office. See more in Who's who in the criminal process. 

What if the police won’t make an arrest or file criminal charges?

You can also file a criminal complaint yourself if you want the abuser to go to criminal court. 

Resource Boxes
More Resources
Who to call for help with domestic violence
DV - Who to call for help

Call 911 if you are in danger right now.

If you are not in immediate danger, you can contact:

See Jane Doe's list of Massachusetts domestic violence programs and court resources for safety and support.

Was this page helpful?