How Do You Deal With Someone Harassing You in Massachusetts?

Uncomfortable woman being touched by a man.

In Massachusetts, if you are experiencing harassment, consider these steps:

  1. Document the Harassment: Keep a record of all incidents, including dates, times, and any witnesses.
  2. Contact Law Enforcement: Report the harassment to your local police department. They can guide you on the possibility of filing charges.
  3. Seek a Harassment Prevention Order: Massachusetts law allows you to obtain a Harassment Prevention Order (HPO) if you’ve been harassed three or more times. This order can prohibit the harasser from contacting or approaching you.
  4. Consult an Attorney: An attorney can provide legal advice tailored to your situation.
  5. Use Workplace Resources: If the harassment occurs at work, report it to your employer or HR department, as they are required to address such issues.

Navigating Harassment in Massachusetts: A Guide to Your Legal Rights and Remedies

Harassment is a serious issue that affects many individuals across various contexts, whether through social media, workplace environments, or personal interactions. In Massachusetts, the law provides several means of protection for victims of harassment, including criminal charges and civil orders. Understanding your legal options is crucial in taking effective action to protect yourself and your rights. This guide will walk you through the necessary steps and legal concepts, helping you navigate the complexities of harassment in Massachusetts with the help of affordable legal assistance.

Understanding Harassment Under Massachusetts Law

What Constitutes Harassment?

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 258E, harassment is defined as three or more acts of willful and malicious conduct aimed at a specific person that seriously alarms or annoys them, causing substantial emotional distress. This could include a series of acts such as:

  • threatening phone calls,
  • texts, emails, or
  • actions that are not just annoying but that a reasonable person would find seriously alarming.

Knowing Pattern of Conduct

It’s important to understand that a pattern of conduct can include various forms of communication and behavior, including:

  • electronic communications,
  • internet communications, and
  • social media activities.

Each act, whether it is an instant message or a post on social media, contributes to a knowing pattern of conduct that Massachusetts courts take seriously.

Legal Protections
and Procedures

Criminal Charges and Civil Orders

Harassment can lead to criminal harassment charges, where the perpetrator, if found guilty, may face jail time in a House of Correction or even state prison for subsequent offenses. For civil recourse, a victim may seek a Harassment Prevention Order (HPO), which serves as a protective order to prevent further harassment.

Harassment Prevention Orders (HPO)

To obtain an HPO, you must demonstrate that you suffered from a series of acts constituting harassment, posing a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of harassment. This court order can restrict the harasser from making contact or even coming near you for a specified period of time.

Steps to Take if You Are Harassed

Immediate Actions

If you believe you are in immediate danger, contacting law enforcement is critical. For non-immediate threats, documenting every incident is key. This includes saving any text messages, emails, or social media communications, as well as noting dates, times, and any witnesses.

How to File for a Harassment Prevention Order

If you’re being harassed, you can ask the court to step in and stop it. The first thing to do is file for a Harassment Prevention Order. To do so, you’ll need to fill out several forms, file them with the civil clerk at your local court and have a hearing. This will be the first of two hearings if you want the Order extended.

Temporary Restraining Order

If the judge is convinced that you need protection, they will issue a Temporary Order. This Order will be in place for 10 business days. If you want the Order extended beyond that time, you need to go back to court for a 2-party hearing.

The big difference between the ex-party hearing and the 2-party hearing is that your harasser may be present at the 2-party hearing. They have the right to present their side of the story and ask that the Order not be extended.

Report to Authorities

Once evidence is compiled, it should be presented to the local police department. They can guide you on whether the harassment merits a criminal complaint or advise on obtaining a Harassment Prevention Order.

Workplace Harassment

Rights and Reporting

If the harassment occurs at your place of employment, you have the right to report it to your employer. Under state laws, employers are required to address harassment complaints and ensure a workplace free from hostile environments.

Legal Action Beyond HR

Should your employer fail to take appropriate action, or if the harassment continues, legal action may be necessary. This might involve pursuing a hostile work environment lawsuit or seeking a protective order to prevent further harassment at work.

Consulting with an Attorney

Importance of Legal Advice

While many resources can offer guidance, consulting with an attorney provides tailored legal advice that can significantly impact the outcome of your case. Attorneys can assist with:

  • filing legal paperwork,
  • representing you in court, and
  • ensuring your rights are fully protected.

Help Getting a Restraining 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.

Additional Help

There are numerous support services and advocacy groups dedicated to helping harassment victims. These organizations can provide counseling, legal help, and guidance on how to handle harassment both legally and personally.

Facing harassment is undoubtedly challenging, but knowing your rights and the available legal avenues can empower you to take decisive action. Remember, you do not have to face this alone. Legal help is available, and with the right knowledge and support, you can achieve the best possible outcome.

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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