Massachusetts’ 209A Restraining Order Law Should Go



November, 2011

The Fatherhood coalition of Massachusetts is trying to get signatures to place a measure on the ballot to abolish the state’s restraining order law often referred to as “209A.” (see story page 17)

The proponents of this ballot initiative say that the law destroys families and discriminates against men, not to mention the fact that it presumes the law’s targets are guilty until proven innocent.

The Fatherhood Coalition has a point.

Under the State’s 209A law, a man can be put in jail merely because a woman claims to be in fear. As a result, many innocent men are dragged from their homes, separated from their children, and their names placed in a criminal database that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Typically this is done with no crime being charged, no evidence presented, and with no due process.

We agree that domestic violence and stalking need to be dealt with by the police with support from our courts. But there are other laws that deal with these problems … laws that have effectively dealt with these crimes for many decades before our disastrous 209A statue was enacted.

The current 209A law is so skewed in favor of women and against men that if a man with a 209A restraining order merely runs into his accuser by happenstance he can be arrested and jailed for violating the court order even though the encounter was unintentional and benign.

Our criminal justice system must operate based on objective fact finding and those that make charges must be held accountable for the truth of their accusations. Of the tens of thousands of 209A filings made each year, how many accusers have ever been prosecuted for issuing false charges? How many people have been victimized by this atrocious law?

Massachusetts’ 209A law is a travesty and has left tremendous carnage in its wake.

This law needs to be abolished and our police, with the backing of our courts, must be allowed to provide for the immediate protection of our citizenry while making it clear that any false accusation will be treated as a criminal offense and prosecuted as such.

No longer should false accusations made by those with ulterior motives (seeking an advantage in custody disputes, gaining sole possession of a marital home, or ensuring commencement of child support payments) be met with a wink and a nod.

Justice for all must be the goal of our justice system.

Nothing less should be considered acceptable. We hope our readers support the initiative to abolish this law.