What is the Difference Between an Abuse Prevention Order and a Harassment Prevention Order


Exploring the key differences between Abuse Prevention Orders and Harassment Prevention Orders in Massachusetts can help you decide which is the best option for you. This guide outlines the main characteristics of each, providing clarity to individuals seeking to protect themselves from harm.


Key Distinctions: Protecting Yourself in Massachusetts

Abuse Prevention Orders and Harassment Prevention Orders both aim to protect the petitioner, but they serve different purposes. Abuse Prevention Orders are issued to prevent abuse from someone who you share a personal relationship with, or someone you shared a personal relationship with in the past. Harassment Prevention Orders are designed to protect people from stalking, harassment, or sexual assault by anyone – regardless of whether you share a personal relationship with them or not. Understanding the differences between Abuse Prevention Orders and Harassment Prevention Orders can help you better identify the most appropriate legal avenue to suit your needs.

Abuse Prevention Orders

Abuse Prevention Orders focus on preventing harm from individuals with whom you share a close relationship, or shared a close relationship in the past. These orders come into play in scenarios where there’s a risk of physical violence, unwanted sexual interactions, or a threat of such harm from someone connected to you—like a family member, romantic partner, or roommate. With Abuse Prevention Orders, your connection to the other person is a key factor. The law requires clear evidence of abuse, meaning you will need to provide proof of physical harm or threats that have put you in fear for your safety.

Harassment Prevention Orders

Harassment Prevention Orders are designed to protect you from ongoing stalking, harassment, or direct threats to your safety, regardless of your relationship with the person. To be issued a Harassment Prevention Order, you must demonstrate an ongoing pattern of harassment; specifically, three (3) or more incidents of unwanted behavior in the form of stalking, harassment, or direct threats that have left you feeling threatened, frightened, or harmed. Harassment Prevention Orders can also be issued if you have been forced or threatened into having sex.

Application Process and Evidence

When applying for an Abuse Prevention Order, you’ll typically start at your local family or district court. You will need to fill out forms detailing the abuse and appear in court to explain your case to a judge. It is important to bring any evidence you have, like messages, emails, or photos of injuries.

For a Harassment Prevention Order, the process is similar. You’ll need to prove the harassment with detailed information, including dates and details of each incident. Evidence like messages, emails, or witness statements can help strengthen your case.

Legal Impact and Enforcement

Both orders make it illegal for the defendant to contact you or be in close proximity to you. Violation of the order is a criminal offense and can lead to arrest. Abuse Prevention Orders can also include specific terms, like ordering the defendant to vacate a shared home, or surrender their firearm(s).
Once an order has been granted, it may be temporary, lasting only until a court hearing occurs and a judge decides upon a more long term solution; or it can last for a specific duration of time, as decided by the judge.

Making the Right Choice: Guidance and Support

The decision of whether to file an Abuse Prevention Order or a Harassment Prevention Order depends upon the details pertaining to your unique case. The decision is based upon who is causing you harm, and the basis of the harm they are inflicting upon you. Filing for the correct order is important to ensure your safety and protection. If you are unsure which type of order is right for you, speaking with a legal expert could help. They could help guide you through the process and gather evidence to support your case.

Need Tailored Legal Advice? Markey Law Partners Can Help

Markey Law Partners is committed to guiding you through the complexities of choosing and applying for the right type of order. Facing abuse or harassment demands decisive action, and our experienced team is here to support you every step of the way. Let us guide you to securing the protection you rightfully deserve.

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