What Is the Harassment Prevention Law in Massachusetts?

Woman looking at phone containing harassing texts in Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, the harassment prevention law is outlined in Chapter 258E. It allows individuals to seek a court-ordered Harassment Prevention Order (HPO), also known as a 258E order. This order can protect you from harassment, stalking, or sexual assault regardless of your relationship with the harasser.

To qualify as harassment under this law, the behavior must include three or more acts that are willful and malicious, aimed at you, intended to cause fear, intimidation, abuse, or damage to property, and actually cause such effects. Alternatively, it can be a single incident of forced or threatened sex, or a specific crime such as indecent assault and battery, rape, statutory rape, assault with intent to rape, child enticement, criminal stalking, criminal harassment, or drugging for sexual intercourse.

Understanding Harassment Prevention and Abuse Prevention Orders in MA

Massachusetts Law of Restraining Orders

Massachusetts courts take harassment very seriously. If you’re suffering harassment at the hands of another, you may be able to get a Harassment Prevention Order. Unlike an Abuse Prevention Order, you don’t need to be in any special kind of relationship with your harasser to get this Order. The procedure to get this type of Order and the protections they give you are similar to an Abuse Prevention Order.

Abuse Prevention Order: A Shield Against Domestic Violence

In cases of domestic violence, Abuse Prevention Orders under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A serve as a robust defense. Tailored for situations where abuse is perpetrated by a family or household members or intimate partners, these orders are crucial for your safety. A family or household member is generally defined as someone you have or are living with or someone you are related to by blood or marriage.

The Court Order Process for Harassment Prevention

Navigating the Legal Process in District Court

Filing for a protection order entails a clear legal process. It starts with filing an application with your local court where you describe the harassing behavior. You’ll then have an ex-parte hearing. Ex-parte just means that only one party, you, in this case, will be testifying.

Temporary Harassment Prevention Order

At the ex-parte hearing, if the judge is convinced you need immediate protection, they will issue a Temporary Harassment Prevention Order. That order will be valid for 10 business days. The Order will be served on your harasser by the police. If you want to extend your Order, you need to go back to court on the 10th day and ask for an extension at a 2-party hearing.

2-Party Hearing

It’s called a 2-party hearing because this time, both you and your harasser will have the chance to talk to the judge. Bring any evidence with you of the harassment such as:

  • text messages,
  • emails,
  • voicemail messages, and

Also, bring any witnesses so they can testify on your behalf.

If the judge feels you need the Court’s protection, they will extend the Order. These Orders are usually extended for one year. If you need it extended again, you have to go back to court in one year on the day it expires and ask for a further extension.

Violations of Harassment Prevention Orders

A Harassment Prevention Order is a civil court order. Any violation of that Order, however, is a crime. If your harasser violates the Order, you should call the police immediately. They can now be arrested for the violation and could face jail time.

Addressing Workplace Harassment

Crafting a Sexual Harassment Claim under Massachusetts Law

Victims of workplace harassment can file a sexual harassment claim, especially when there’s a pattern of hostile behavior. This is something separate, but related to, a Harassment Prevention Order. It’s another way of providing a safe environment for you.

Series of Acts That Constitute Workplace Harassment

A single phone call or text message might not constitute harassment, but a series of acts could create a hostile work environment. Unlawful harassment is defined as subjecting an employee to offensive conduct based upon a certain characteristic, including gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age (over 40), disability, or race.

Help Getting a Harassment Prevention Order in Massachusetts

If you’d like help getting a Restraining Order without paying an expensive attorney, we can help. With our Legal Coaching we can walk you through every step to make sure you’re ready for your hearing. The first thing to do is see if you qualify for a Massachusetts Restraining Order. Click on the link below to see if you qualify for either type of Restraining Order.

Legal Disclaimer

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances and receive tailored guidance.

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