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College students may not be eligible to get domestic-abuse restraining orders against violent roommates, court rules

The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled today that freshmen students placed in a dorm room by their school aren't members of a "household" and so are ineligible to apply for abuse-prevention orders against their roommates.

The ruling comes in the case of two freshmen roommates at a college in Newton, one of whom went to Newton District Court and got an abuse-prevention order after, he alleged, his roommate hit him on the side of the head, left, then returned and beat him. It doesn't mean students have no recourse against violent roommates, just that they can't seek protection under Chapter 209a, which lets judges issue restraining orders against violent family or household members.

In its ruling today, the appeals court said that, at least in this case, the college roommates were not "family or household members" as defined by the domestic-abuse law.

The court first acknowledged that "the wide variety of relationships and living arrangements existing today calls for a more flexible approach in determining whether two parties qualify as persons 'residing together in the same household', but then continued, that, at least in this case, there was not enough evidence the two effectively formed a household, that they were more akin to strangers who just happened to be in the same space, thrown together by their university - which, like the students themselves, was not named in the ruling:

Although the parties may have been attending the university voluntarily, they were not living together voluntarily; they were assigned to the same dormitory room by the university. In addition, they had been roommates for only a short time (about two months), and there is no evidence in the record about the physical layout of the room, such as whether it was a single room or more like a suite. Even presuming that much of it was common living space, there is no evidence that the parties prepared and ate meals together, engaged in other communal living activities, or had a "socially interdependent relationship." In fact, the plaintiff presented no evidence of any relationship he had with the defendant beyond sharing a dormitory room. As the plaintiff thus failed to establish that he had a "'family-like' connection" with the defendant, he was not eligible to seek protection under G. L. c. 209A.

PDF icon Complete ruling66.46 KB


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There's a lot of areas of the law where issues students face are essentially dumped on the colleges to solve with little recourse when the universities choose to ignore/sweep it under the rug. If young women are told, after sexual assaults, that it's the college's responsibility to investigate and mete out consequences, not the police or the law, then obviously the law isn't going to step into issues of domestic violence either.

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…. of academia. Droit du seigneur, might equals right. America cut into piecemeal, bit by bit.

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I'm sure the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor Healy can quickly and easily pass a law to remedy this.

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Not wanting to hurt the poor criminal's feelings again.

They share a crapper. Boom, household. Guess we just wait for the victim to get beaten to death, or to escalate the retaliation.

Your life does not matter to elites.

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like requesting an emergency change of room assignment/roommate, that generally wouldn't be available to (alleged) victims of DV in private living situations.

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Obviously, I thought the ruling was interesting enough to write about, but my apologies if I left the impression it means there are no other remedies. What the roommate allegedly did was assault and battery, and obviously that's still illegal.

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The original incident happened 18 months ago. This is an appeals-court ruling on motions made in district court. I dont think it's a case of the Elites conspiring against the people, nor (in this case) protecting the criminal. It's just that dorm-mates weren't included as a house-hold under the MGL.

So, to mis-quote the movie Stripes, "relax, Francis".

By Will LaTulippe on Mon, 08/28/2023 - 2:46pm.

Not wanting to hurt the poor criminal's feelings again.

They share a crapper. Boom, household. Guess we just wait for the victim to get beaten to death, or to escalate the retaliation.

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If you had bothered to read the article, you would have learned that the decision.was a somewhat technical one, meaning that it is still entirely possible to obtain a restraining order against a college roommate, just not under the rules that specifically pertain to domestic relationships.

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I had a room mate at Providence College and although we shared a room the crapper was a communal one for the whole floor. Which college are we talking about?

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Since, I dunno, the early 2000s at the latest, it's pretty common for at least newer college dorms to be organized as suites, including a shared bathroom.

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