By Gabrielle Antolovic
Attorneys and staff at Hera Law Group recognize October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We strive to protect our client’s legal needs and wellness as a firm. We work towards protecting and advocating on behalf of survivors, including those who have suffered physical, sexual, financial, or abuse based in coercive control.
At Hera Law Group, we recognize that coercive control is domestic violence. Coercive control is a pattern of deliberate and intentional behavior by an abuser that restricts their victim’s safety, free will, and autonomy. Some examples of coercive control may include electronic monitoring or surveillance, non-consensual sharing of explicit images, impersonation on the internet, deliberately isolating a partner from friends or family members, repeatedly humiliating a partner or using degrading language or behaviors towards them; controlling, regulating, or monitoring a partner’s financial activities.
Current law in Massachusetts limits the definition of domestic abuse to physical abuse and coerced sexual relations. Yet, other forms of persistent, harmful abuse and control, including intimidation, threats, isolation, technology abuse, and abusive litigation, occur alongside or independently of physical violence. When Massachusetts Courts issue protective orders, more often restraining orders, it is in cases of physical violence, as that is the statute standard. Generally, Courts are less willing to issue restraining orders when abuse is not physically violent or happened in the distant past.
However, the legal standard needed to issue a protective order may finally change for the better. Recently, in the 193rd session of the General Court, H.1547/S.1077, or “An Act to improve protections relative to domestic violence,” is making waves. This legislation improves protections for survivors who have been victims of coercive control. The legislation emphasizes that dangerous forms of abuse and control outside physical or threatened violence impact survivors daily. It allows the civil court process to recognize said actions as a basis for a protective order. Sponsored by Rep. Natalie Higgins, Rep. Tram Nguyen, and Senator Michael Moore, this long-awaited addition to Chapter 209A abuse prevention orders also expands the statute of limitations in domestic violence cases to 15 years.
If our laws fail to recognize and address the power imbalance that allows abusers to intimidate and control survivors, abusers will only be emboldened to perpetuate cycles of violence. This bill will be monumental for survivors, giving them a chance to seek protection from abuse that occurs regularly. For more information or to get involved, please participate in effective advocacy and check at malegislature.gov to learn who your legislator is and how to ask them to support this bill.
If you want to learn more about the legal services that Hera Law Group provides to survivors of domestic violence, please call: 978-637-2048
If you require immediate help, please call:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
SafeLink is Massachusetts’ statewide 24/7 toll-free domestic violence hotline operated by Casa Myrna. SafeLink hotline advocates are multilingual, and all calls to SafeLink are free, confidential, and anonymous. Anyone can call for information, support, and resources at 1-877-785-2020.