Domestic Violence and Abuse Resources
Domestic crimes include all offenses committed against family members, spouses and ex-spouses, roommates, and romantic partners and ex-romantic partners. Though "domestic violence" is generally thought to be synonymous with dating violence (50% of cases) and spousal abuse (20% of cases), it can also encompass violence between siblings, parents and children, step-parents and step-children, foster-parents and foster-children, and other family members.
The Cambridge Police Department takes reports for about 1,000 domestic crimes per year. Domestic crimes account for just over 10% of all crimes reported to the police, including 16% of all serious violent crime, 25% of all aggravated assaults, and 40% of all simple assaults.
The Cambridge Police Department's "Zero-Tolerance" policy towards domestic violence means that we will vigorously investigate and prosecute cases of family violence and other crimes. Patrol officers have a mandatory arrest policy towards domestic violence which requires them to make on-scene arrests for all domestic crimes in which the offender can be located. If a victim of a domestic assault summons police assistance, and the offender can be located when the police arrive, he or she will be arrested.
Abuse is about power and control. Abuse is a range of behavior that may take many forms such as physical abuse, emotional or mental abuse, verbal, and sexual abuse. Abusers often control finances, isolate you over time from your family/friends, strictly monitor your whereabouts, display extreme jealousy and use intimidation, threats and/or violence.
What should I do if I'm being abused?
- Protect yourself, (and your children);
- Seek assistance! Please call Cambridge Police at 617-349-3300 or dial 9-1-1 immediately if it is an emergency.
- Make the changes necessary for you to live abuse free.
What does the law say about abuse?
M.G.L. Chapter 209A defines criminal abuse as:
- actual physical abuse or an attempt to harm another;
- placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm;
- or causing another to engage in sexual relations by force, threat of force or duress.
The law protects abused persons who:
- are married to one another;
- are residing in the same household;
- are related by blood or marriage;
- have a child in common;
- are or have been in a substantive dating relationship, which shall be judged by the court.
The courts can issue an Abuse Prevention Order:
- The court may order that an abuser refrain from abusing, hurting or harassing the victim in any way.
- The court may order temporary support.
- The court may order the abuser to stay away from the victim at home, school or any other place the victim may be.
- The court may order that the victim have temporary custody of any minor children and/or abuser to stay away from them.
- The court may order the abuser to vacate the household.
Domestic Violence Abuse, as defined in M.G.L. 209A, is a crime punishable by law.
If I call the Police, what should I expect?
When a Cambridge Police Officer comes to your home you may expect he or she will:
- Use all reasonable means to prevent further abuse, including arresting the abuser;
- Remain on the scene as long as you are in physical danger and/or take you to a place where you feel safe;
- Assist you in obtaining medical treatment;
- Explain your rights under M.G.L. Chapter 209A;
- Will conduct an exhaustive investigation; this includes witness statements, photographing of injuries and property.
You are not alone. Many families are affected by abuse. We can help. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed to ask.
How do I obtain a restraining order?
- First, you must go to the Victim Witness Advocate's Office at the District Court or Probate Court in the jurisdiction or county in which you live or have fled to escape abuse. You should tell the clerk that you want to file a petition for an Abuse Prevention Order or a 209A Petition. You may be asked to complete a form or to write a statement describing why you are requesting an Abuse Prevention Order.
- In an emergency, when the courts are closed or you are unable to get to a court, contact the Cambridge Police Department at 9-1-1 (emergencies) or 617-349-3300. After you have completed the application forms, the Victim Witness Advocate will accompany you before a judge and you will explain why you need the order. At this time, the judge can only issue a Temporary Restraining Order, valid for up to 10 days. On the tenth day, at a scheduled hearing, the judge will decide whether or not to extend the order. Both you and the defendant have the right to be at this hearing.
- Once you receive a restraining order, make sure you keep a copy with you at all times.
- The police are responsible for serving the defendant with the order. Any information that you can provide as to the location of the defendant is of great help.
Depending on the individual situation, restraining orders can mandate that the defendant refrain from abuse, vacate a shared residence, relinquish custody of minor children to the victim, pay money to the victim for medical expenses or lost wages, stay away from the victim, surrender firearms, return property to the victim, and refrain from contacting the victim--whether in person, by mail, by telephone, or even through a third party.
There is no cost to obtain a restraining order.
What resources are available for victims of Domestic Violence?
Domestic abuse generally gets worse and occurs more frequently when victims do not seek help. There is help available, either through the Cambridge Police Department's Domestic Violence Unit at 617-349-3371 or through one of the following local battered women's shelters:
You may also wish to seek legal advice at one of the following offices:
More extensive resources are listed at the following sites:
What resources are available for abusers?
Learn to recognize your behavior for what it is. If you assault your spouse, romantic partner, children, or other family members, you need to seek help.
Likewise, if you insult, threaten, blame, feel you need to control your spouse or romantic partner, or destroy things during arguments, you need to seek assistance. Your behavior may escalate into violence.
The following organizations counsel, assist, and treat abusers: