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What if the person who abused me files a protective order or criminal case against me?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed April 2021

Sometimes abusive people try to get 209A restraining orders against the people they have abused in order to get back at them. Judges know this. The judge may not give the abusive person a restraining order against you even if they asks for one. But sometimes abusive people are able to get protective orders against the people they abused.

If you try to get a restraining order and the person who abused you also asks for one against you, the court may write up “mutual restraining orders.” This means that each of you has a restraining order against the other.

If a judge orders mutual restraining orders, the judge has to write down the reasons why they are writing restraining orders against both of you. The judge also has to write down who the “primary aggressor” is. This means that the judge has to decide which person is most likely to abuse the other. The judge needs to write this down so that the police will know what to do if there is a problem. See Abuse Prevention Guidelines 6:07 (page 167).

If you get served with a 209A restraining order against you, take it seriously. Go to the hearing, no matter what anyone tells you. If you don't go to the hearing, the judge may give the person who abused you a restraining order against you. You do not want that to happen, for many reasons:

  • The abusive person may lie about you or make up things you did so they can get a criminal case filed against you.
  • If the abusive person gets an order against you, it takes attention away from their own abusive behavior. It makes it seem like the domestic violence was your fault as much as it was their fault.
  • It is dangerous for you. If you each have protective orders against each other, the police may not know what to do when there is a problem. You might have trouble getting the police to arrest the abusive person for violating your order. This makes you less safe.
  • It lets the abuser hurt you by using the very system that was set up to protect you.

Go to court on the date of the hearing and tell the judge what really happened. Try to talk to an advocate or lawyer before the hearing to help you prepare. Tell the judge:

  • You are the victim of domestic violence. If you can, tell the judge about the history of how the other person has abused you, past injuries, medical records, police calls, etc. Bring police or medical reports, pictures, or witnesses if you can. If you don't have any of these things, tell the judge some details about what happened.
  • Tell the Judge
    • If you think the abusive person is only trying to get an order against you because you left them, or because you have an order out against them, or because they are trying to get custody, or because you have a new romantic partner, or because their friends told them to, etc. 
    • If you never physically hurt or tried to physically hurt the person who abused you.
    • If you never made the other person scared of being physically hurt by you. or
    • If you never made the other person have sex with you against their will.

Before you go into the courtroom, read the statement (“affidavit")

detective image courtesy of

that the person who abused you filled out when they got their restraining order against you. You can get this affidavit from the file in the clerk's office. If there are statements in that affidavit that are not true, tell the judge the truth.

The judge should only issue a mutual 209A restraining order (one that is against both of you) if they believe that you are each truly in danger from the other. If the judge does issue an order against both of you, they must write down the facts that made them decide you are both in danger from each other. The judge's written report of these facts are called "findings." If the judge gives the person who abused you a protective order against you, ask for a written copy of the findings. You may want to show them to a lawyer or advocate and think about filing an appeal.

What do I do if the abusive person files a criminal complaint against me?

Sometimes, abusive people try to "get revenge" by filing criminal charges against their victims. You should take this very seriously. If the other person files criminal charges against you, you will need a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court should appoint one for you if any jail time is possible.

Tell your lawyer the history of domestic violence and that you are the true victim. Each District Attorney's office has different ways of dealing with these "retaliatory" cases (cases where an abuser files criminal charges against their victim as a way of getting back at them). The Assistant District Attorney may know the history of your case and may not believe the abuser's story. The Assistant DA might drop the charges and not go forward with a criminal case against you. That is the best thing that can happen. But you cannot be sure the DA will drop the case. (See Criminal Complaints for more information about what happens in criminal cases)

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