With all the speculation in the news and gossip media about what may, or may not, have happened at Tiger Woods’ home last week, it seems a timely moment to discuss the Massachusetts Abuse Prevention laws.
Domestic abuse is a horrible and pervasive thing. It devastates not only the direct victim but the most innocent of bystanders – the children. If violence did occur at the Woods’ abode I would bet it was a single, wild fight, violent and horrible with lethal potential but not the ongoing, personality destroying, dehumanizing continuum of real domestic abuse.
If you read the news, at least every day another person (usually a woman) is killed in the United States as a result of domestic violence.
In an attempt to stem the tide, states have enacted various laws to try and prosecute the abuser even when the victim refuses to testify. (One of the most demoralizing situations family lawyers face is a victim returning to the batterer and then refusing to testify. In Florida, if Tiger were to say his wife had hit him with the golf club (if she did?) then he would have no further control of the situation – she would be arrested. In Massachusetts, the law is somewhat less direct, but the District Attorney can prosecute even if the victim later changes his mind and refuses to testify. Once the police file the complaint, which is generally a criminal assault charge, the victim has no further control. Victims can recant, but they can be and usually are summonsed to testify at trial.
With the holiday season and its stresses upon us, never mind the bad economy, this is prime time for domestic violence. In Massachusetts there are several statutes which cover violent domestic situations. The most well known and commonly used Abuse Prevention Statute is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A.
There are a number of other statutes within the general divorce laws which I will review in a future post.
For now, if you are a victim of immediate or threatened domestic violence call 9-1-1! If you fear you will be a victim but the threat is not immediate, there are also a number of excellent shelters/hotlines that provide help as well.
Be safe this Holiday season!