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Abuse, Harassment, and Stalking: What You Need to Know

In Massachusetts, abuse is defined as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members: 1. Attempting to cause or causing physical harm; 2. Placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm; or 3. Causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat, or duress. Several examples of abuse include physically hitting a spouse, attempting to hit a child, or sexual assault against a partner.

Harassment is a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress. An example of harassment would include repeatedly sending sexual text messages to an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend, causing the victim to feel emotionally insecure.

Stalking includes the definition of harassment plus a threat to intend to place the person in imminent fear of death or bodily injury. An example of stalking would include consistently sending text messages, making phone calls, and physically following someone in various places, such as in a motor vehicle, at work, or in the community.

In Massachusetts, it is unlawful to contact another by telephone or some type of electronic communication for the sole purpose of harassing, annoying, or molesting the victim or the victim’s family. The following is an example of a liability case involving harassment:

Imagine that a woman named Mary Beth worked for an accounting firm. Her boss Tom owned the firm and frequently harassed her and belittled her in the office. His moods were volatile. In fact, sometimes he was a wonderful and kind person who thanked Mary Beth for her work product. Other times, he would get angry because she did not complete an assignment fast enough or well enough for him. On several occasions, he threw documents against the wall in a fit of rage. On two occasions he threw pens at Mary Beth. Once, he became so angry in the office that he flung a stack of papers at her.

The abuse was severe workplace abuse, and Mary Beth began to seek emotional and mental support from her counselor. Her counselor suggested that Mary Beth seek a competent attorney, as Mary Beth could potentially have a claim for relief against Tom. Mary Beth found a competent attorney, who served Tom with a letter requesting that he refrain from continuing his actions toward Mary Beth. In retaliation, Tom fired Mary Beth. Suddenly, she began to receive threatening messages on her cell phone, as well as odd packages by postal mail. She also kept feeling as though she were being watched by another person. Once, in a drive-thru for an iced coffee, Mary Beth saw Tom staring at her. Although Mary Beth physically received no harm, she was always worried and fearful for her safety.

Mary Beth wants to know more: does she have a strong liability case against Tom?

Although Massachusetts courts have held that startling, without more, does not necessarily rise to the level of abuse, the suffering that Mary Beth continues to face as described above is likely enough for Mary Beth to have a solid claim for relief under Massachusetts law. In Massachusetts, Mary Beth must prove that Tom’s actions are extreme or outrageous, directly inflicted at Mary Beth with intent. She must prove that she had or has severe emotional distress.

Based on the facts above, Mary Beth is likely being abused, harassed, or stalked by Tom. Tom’s conduct, if proven, is extreme. Her mental health professional would be able to support the premise that she suffers emotional distress. It may be possible for Mary Beth to make additional claims against Tom for her wrongful firing, retaliation for her lawsuit, and more. Even if a court determines that Tom’s firm may not be included in the lawsuit, the court would likely hold that Tom is not immune from personal liability for his actions.

If you have any questions about issues involving abuse, harassment, stalking, torts, personal injury, or liability, please find a competent personal injury law attorney. Our experienced professionals may be able to work on behalf of you. Please contact our offices at your earliest convenience by phone at 978-225-9030 or complete a contact form on our website. We will return your inquiry with prompt attention. If you require immediate attention or are faced with an emergent situation, please do not hesitate to contact your local authorities for your safety.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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