The Dangers of Internet Encounters

Person looking at phone

We have received many calls from both men and women who met someone online, then met them in person, and after trying to break off the relationship whether it was after a first date or lengthy relationship, found themselves on the receiving end of some frightening behavior. You may encounter someone who is constantly calling or texting you, showing up uninvited at your house or work, or sending unwelcome gifts. In some cases you may be on the wrong end of a criminal complaint of sexual assault or finding yourself in court on a Restraining or Harassment Prevention Order after what was thought to be consensual behavior.

In today’s world it is far more likely you will first meet someone online rather than in real life. Whether you are online looking for Mr. Right, new friends, or someone to hook up with, meeting in person can lead to some unintended problems. As anybody who has connected with someone online will attest, sometimes the person you meet in real life is exactly what you expected and other times they are the exact opposite.

What can you do if someone is harassing you?

In Massachusetts, based on the facts of your case, you may be able to seek a Restraining Order or Harassment Prevention Order. If you go to the courthouse, there will be an advocate who will assist you with the process including filling out all the paperwork. You can also hire an attorney to represent you if you feel more comfortable having representation.

Restraining Orders

In Massachusetts, Restraining Orders are known as Abuse Prevention Orders. Under G.L. c. 209A, a judge can issue a restraining order if:

The two parties were:

  • Married, or
  • Residing together in the same household, or
  • In a substantive dating relationship or engagement relationship, or
  • Related by blood or marriage, or
  • Have a child in common

The plaintiff is suffering from abuse because the defendant:

  • Harmed or attempted to harm the plaintiff physically, or
  • Put the plaintiff in fear of imminent serious physical harm, or
  • Caused the plaintiff to engage in sexual relations involuntarily by using force, threat, or duress

Harassment Prevention Orders

Under G.L. c. 258E, a judge can issue a Harassment Prevention Order if the judge believes you are being harassed.

A person is found to be suffering from harassment if:

  • Someone has committed 3 or more acts,
  • That were willful and malicious,
  • Malicious means the acts were characterized by cruelty, hostility, or revenge
  • The acts were aimed at you,
  • The acts were intended to cause you fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property, and
  • Did cause you fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property

A Harassment Prevention Order can also be issued if:

  • A person has caused you to engage in sexual relations involuntarily by using force, threat, or duress, or
  • Someone has committed an Indecent Assault & Battery, Rape, Statutory Rape, Assault with Intent to Rape, Enticing a Child, Criminal Stalking, Criminal Harassment, or Drugging A Person for Purposes of Sexual Intercourse.

Even though you may have met someone online and only met them once or twice in person, their conduct may still be enough to support the issuance of a Harassment Prevention Order. Every case is different and the facts of your case will determine whether you can get an order of protection.

Conversely, you may be on the receiving end of the Restraining Order or Harassment Prevention Order. In the internet age, one never knows who they are going to encounter. Often the person you are talking to online may seem perfectly normal but the next thing you know you are being served with a Restraining Order or Harassment Prevention Order and you have no idea why. These kinds of orders can be defended against and should be fought in court. While a Restraining Order or Harassment Prevention Order itself is a civil order, if it is violated, then it becomes a criminal matter.

Have you been accused of unwanted touching?

Most people who meet online may be looking for companionship whether long term or just for the night. Once people have a few drinks, they can often become overly friendly. Sometimes a person’s advances are welcome and other times they are not. You can quickly find yourself being the victim of unwanted touching or the person accused of unwanted touching.

M.G.L. c. 265 §13H states that “Whoever commits an indecent assault and battery on a person who has attained age fourteen shall be punished….” An INDECENT touching includes physically touching a person’s breasts, buttocks, genitals, inner thighs, and pubic area without consent. If you are convicted of Indecent Assault & Battery on Person 14 or Older, you face up to 5 years in state prison or up to 2.5 years in the house of correction. This is a very serious charge and should be defended against. Once this incident is reported to police, a detective will reach out for both sides of the story. As the accused, it doesn’t matter what you say, you will not talk yourself out of being charged. The detective’s job is to seek the facts and if there is enough evidence to charge you then you will end up in court. If you admit to touching someone, even if you claim it was consensual, you will be charged. Do not answer any questions posed by the police. Invoke your right to remain silent and contact an attorney immediately!

Minors Posing as Adults on Dating Apps

The other danger people run into on dating apps is that most apps require you to confirm that you are over age 18. As most people know, many teenagers under age 18 are also on these apps. If you meet up with someone who is under the age of 16 and engage in sexual intercourse, including digital penetration or oral sex, you can be charged with Statutory Rape. It does not matter that you met the person on an app that was for people 18 and older. It does not matter that the person lied about their age. It does not matter that the person under age 16 consented to having sex. The only thing that matters is whether the person was under 16 and whether you both had sex. If the answer is yes to both, then you will be charged with Statutory Rape and you will need to find an experienced attorney to defend you. In Massachusetts, Statutory Rape is punishable by up to life in prison or any term of years.

You should also be aware that you cannot solicit nor receive nude pictures of anyone under the age of 18. Nude photos of persons under the age of 18 is child porn.

Contact an Internet Sex Crime Attorney Today

There are many different problems that internet encounters can lead to, but we are here to help you! Our experienced attorneys will talk to you about what happened and find the best possible solution regardless of whether you are the one being harassed and need help to make it stop or because you have been a charged with a crime. Contact us at Sweeney & Associates, LLC today for a free consultation. We can be reached at (617) 300-0212 or

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