DV LEAP is thrilled for our client, L.R., a survivor who successfully defeated her abuser’s attempt to “flip the script” by falsely presenting himself as a domestic violence victim and obtaining a protection order against her. A formidable Baker Botts team: Alexandra Dunn, Samantha Olsen, and Caroline Jones, joined DV LEAP to represent L.R. in her appeal and, as a result of their excellent advocacy, the protection order was vacated. L.R. will have the opportunity that the trial court denied her: to defend herself against baseless, harmful accusations and to tell her side of the story as the target of emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse.
It is far from uncommon for an abuser to use the court system against those it is supposed to protect. Here, the abuser, B.W., twisted L.R.’s attempt to bring closure to their relationship into the basis for seeking a protection order against her. And the trial court let him. In a virtual hearing, without turning on her own video screen, the trial judge listened to B.W. describe L.R., a teacher, taking violent and injurious actions against him. None of his testimony was supported by the many texts and emails submitted to the court as evidence. Instead, those documents presented a clear, chilling picture of B.W.’s cruelty, manipulation, and violence. However, the judge refused to let L.R. testify, reviewed the evidence submitted by B.W. that L.R. hadn’t even seen, and cut off her attorney’s attempts to challenge B.W.’s accusations through cross-examination. The judge then granted B.W.’s protection order.
In a decisively worded opinion, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals agreed with our argument that L.R. had not been granted a meaningful opportunity to be heard. The opinion, which will serve as precedent for future cases, upholds an essential due process right. For the many survivors like L.R. who are forced to endure the additional trauma of having a court believe and protect the person who abused them, this is a critical victory.