Options Available to Victims
Campus Police Officers can make recommendations based on your situation that can assist to make you safe:
- Emergency Restraining Orders
In circumstances when abuse has occurred and it may happen again without judicial intervention, officers can contact an on-call judge to obtain an emergency restraining order on the telephone 24 hours a day.
- Restraining Orders
When a victim reports a past domestic violence situation and does not feel immediately in danger, victims can choose to seek a restraining order during the court business hours. Officers can escort victims to court to provide support and guidance with court officials as an experienced third party even though the police are not a direct agent in such a court order. An Abuse Prevention Order, called a "209A Order," or a "protective order," or "restraining order," is a civil order intended to provide protection from physical or sexual harm caused by force or threat of harm from a family or household member.
- Harassment Prevention Orders
There may be circumstances when the relationship between the victim and offender may not meet the definitions of the abuse prevention orders, or when the actions of the offender do not reach the level of an abuse prevention order. A harassment prevention order may be an additional tool that may be available to victims. Campus Police Officers can assist victims with this process.
- Trespass Notice
When a victim does not feel that s/he wants a restraining order based on circumstances of her/his case, s/he may opt to request a trespass notice be issued. Officers will take information on your case and will be able to let you know if a trespass notice is appropriate. Standards for a campus trespass notice are less strict than those for a restraining order; if a restraining order is not issued by the courts, a trespass notice may still be possible.
- Other Options
The Department can act as a liaison to other departments on campus to assist in protecting you such as arranging for residential hall changes, mental health counseling, academic assistance, etc.
Can Officers Assist me at Court with a restraining order? What happens at court?
While a restraining order is a civil matter - in other words, initiated by a private citizen rather than by a police agency - Campus Police can be an active link in the process. The Campus Police Department has a strong commitment to victims of domestic violence, whether such violence occurred on campus or elsewhere, to assist them in obtaining the help they need. Whenever possible, the department will assign an officer to escort you to the Hampshire County District Court and through the court process. Victims may also opt to bring someone else with them to court for moral support.
A suggested first stop at court is the Victim/Witness Program office, who can help a victim through the process. An advocate will ask you about your case and help you make an informed plan for your safety. Our staff can stay with you for as long as you need us as staffing allows; our goal is to make you feel safe.
In court, you will appear before a clerk magistrate or judge and explain the circumstances of your case. Be sure to provide all of the details about the abuse, threats, and other information to assist the officer of the court in making a fully-informed decision.
Restraining orders can include restrictions on the abuser such as a stay-away order from the victim (sometimes with a distance restriction), a stay-away from the victim's residence and/or workplace, a stay-away from any children, an order to surrender any firearms to the police, and others. The victim's address can be impounded, when necessary for the protection of the victim.
Most of the time, the court will issue a temporary restraining order valid for a few days to a week. The court will also schedule a hearing on the day the order expires to determine if the order will be extended. The defendant will be notified of this hearing and will have an opportunity to appear before the court while you are there. The clerk-magistrate or judge will listen to both parties and determine whether an extension of the order will be issued. She or he will also determine which facets of the order will be in place. Generally, an extension is granted for one year, when another hearing will be scheduled.
I have an order from another state; will it help me in Massachusetts?
According to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 209A, Section 5A, "A law enforcement officer may presume the validity of, and enforce in accordance with section six, a copy of a protection order issued by another jurisdiction which has been provided to the law enforcement officer by any source; provided, however, that the officer is also provided with a statement by the person protected by the order that such order remains in effect. Law enforcement officers may rely on such statement by the person protected by such order."
It is recommended that a plaintiff on the restraining order who is in Massachusetts bring the out-of-state order to the Superior Court and sign an affidavit with them that it is still in effect as stated on the order. The courts will then enter it into the Massachusetts domestic violence record keeping system.
If you are on campus and have a restraining order from another state, please stop by our office and we can assist you in assuring that it will be acted upon. If you let our department know about an order and provide the required documentation, we can eliminate red tape if an incident were to occur.
What Happens if the Order is Violated?
If the abuser violates the order, call the police immediately (on-campus emergencies contact Campus Police at extension 800) . Show the Order to the police and explain how it was violated (a punch, slap, threat; entering your house or apartment or refusing to vacate; or, any contact with you at home or your workplace, either in person, by telephone or mail). The police must arrest the abuser if they believe or can see that the terms of the Order were violated. If you do not call the police, you may be able to file an application for a criminal complaint on your own at the Clerk's Office in the District Court. A Victim/Witness Advocate can assist you with that process.
If you put yourself in contact with the abuser, he/she is vulnerable to arrest. Therefore, if you want any terms of the order to no longer apply, you should return to court and ask that the order be modified or vacated.
What Happens if an Arrest is Made?
If the abuser is arrested, seek assistance from the Victim/Witness Advocate in the District Attorney's Office the next morning after a nighttime arrest, or at any time during the day at the courthouse. A Victim/Witness Advocate will explain what the charges mean and what will happen next. The Advocate will also offer ongoing information, referral for services and case updates throughout the time the case is in court.
Once a criminal complaint has been issued or an arrest made, the abuser will be charged with the crime or crimes at the arraignment proceeding in the District Court. A bail hearing will be held to determine whether the defendant/abuser will be released or held in jail until trial. If the defendant/abuser is released from custody, the court must make a reasonable effort to notify you of the release, even if you are not present in court.
What Happens at the Arraignment?
It is important to provide information to the Assistant District Attorney before the arraignment and bail hearing regarding the history of the abuse and a description of the most recent abuse, including any pictures or hospital records of injuries. You should also mention the location of any guns or other weapons that you believe the abuser has in his or her possession.
The ADA will bring this information to the attention of the judge, along with your safety concerns and fears at this time. The judge may also consider whether the defendant/abuser is dangerous and a threat to you or the community. The information will help the judge decide if the defendant/abuser is to be released, what the amount of bail and conditions of release will be.
What Happens After the Arraignment?
Interviews will be held with you before the trial, to gather information and evidence for prosecution. Every effort will be made to consider your needs and safety in going forward with the case. The safety of your children will also be a priority.
Prosecution may provide the means to gain the batterer's intervention services for the defendant/abuser as part of a sentencing recommendation. Very few batterer's seek or stay with these services on their own, without court orders and probation supervision. An ADA will speak with you about different sentences that can be imposed if the defendant/abuser is found guilty by a judge or pleads guilty. The sentence asked for may include drug or alcohol counseling, required attendance at a batterer's intervention program, supervised probation and/or jail time.
What is a Batterer's Intervention Program?
Certified batterer's intervention programs provide services in very strict group settings to try to help the batterer's learn to accept responsibility for their violence, as well as understand and change their controlling and abusive behavior
The groups are led by certified batterer's intervention counselors trained in dealing with domestic violence offenders. The programs work with the courts and victim services to help make sure that partners of batterer's remain safe. The programs may involve weekly sessions of 1 to 2 hours in length. The batterer must participate in the program for a minimum of 80 hours. Group leaders feel your safety is a priority concern and will keep ongoing contact with you.
Will the Intervention Stop the Abuse?
There is no guarantees that the violence will stop because the abuser attends a certified batterer's intervention program. Many abusers drop out of programs or do not comply with the requirements, or only reduce their abuse temporarily. If the judge requires attendance as part of a sentence, dropping out may mean the defendant/abuser may have to serve jail time. The abuser must want to change the abusive behavior and work hard at making those changes. Promises to change, flowers and apologies are not enough. You deserve to be safe and free from abuse.
Your Risk of Harm
Statistically, the most dangerous time for a victim is when leaving the batterer. The abuser may feel he or she is losing control and become dangerously angry. Take steps to protect yourself from abuse or punishment from your abuser. Please trust your instincts. If you are afraid that something may happen, take your feelings seriously and protect yourself. Your know your situation better than anyone else.
Residential Life/Residence Life staff
Dean of the Students
Information About Campus Trespass Notices
Victim's Advocates 586-5780
District Attorney's Office 586-1628