Here are a few key Massachusetts specific resources designed to assist survivors address issues regarding restraining orders, legal needs, economic independence, and technology safety.
For specific questions and support, please contact the sexual assault or domestic violence program in your area.
Massachusetts Legal Help
Legal issues faced by survivors of sexual and domestic violence can be varied and unpredictable. You might find yourself navigating criminal, civil, and/or probate issues in systems that seem impersonal and confusing. Talking to a trained sexual or domestic violence advocate can help you understand your rights and options.
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) created a valuable website with information for survivors, sexual and domestic violence advocates, attorneys, housing providers, and others on issues including domestic and sexual violence, immigration, credit, schools, health care, housing, homelessness, language access (interpreters), child support, benefits, and more.
Restraining Orders for Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking Protection:
A restraining order, also called an order of protection or abuse prevention order, can be a powerful tool for increasing safety of victims of sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, and stalking and their children.
A restraining order is most effective in combination with a larger confidential plan for safety that can be developed in consultation with a trained advocate from a local sexual assault or domestic violence program. There is no fee or cost to obtain a restraining order. It is possible to get an emergency prevention order on holidays, weekends, or outside of court hours. You can call a confidential hotline to get information, or if you feel comfortable doing so, you can call the police and they will contact an emergency response judge immediately.
Courts have the authority to issue an order for the abuser (assailant) to no longer abuse you (plaintiff) and/or have no further contact with you. A restraining order is a civil order, which means that it in itself does not carry criminal penalties. But if any of the provisions of the order are violated, then there is a criminal penalty AND the police have a right to arrest the abuser and file charges.
District, superior, and probate courts can issue two different types of restraining orders in Massachusetts.
- 209A Abuse Prevention Orders is generally applicable when there has been some form of abuse from a family or household member, or someone with whom you have a substantial dating relationship. Learn more: http://www.masslegalhelp.org/domestic-violence/209a-guidelines
- 258E Harassment Prevention Orders is available in cases of sexual violence and stalking and is applicable when the parties are not known to each other or have not been in a relationship. Learn more: https://www.masslegalhelp.org/domestic-violence/harassment-prevention-orders.
The Safety Net: National Safe & Strategic Technology Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is a national expert on the use and abuse of technology. Safety Net offers expert advice, tips, and resources to help victims and agencies respond effectively to the many ways that technology impacts victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual violence and stalking. Visit their website for a list of technology tips.
If you are a survivor or victim of sexual or domestic violence or are being stalked, you may be eligible for the Massachusetts Address Confidentiality Program (ACP). The ACP serves as a confidential mail forwarding system for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The substitute address is used as the victim’s legal residence, as well as work and/or school address. Consequently, government records may be disclosed to the public without identifying the victim’s new location.
Economic Advocacy Resources:
Economic abuse as well as the economic impact of abuse impacts on the ability of sexual and domestic violence victims and survivors to acquire, use or maintain financial resources. Sexual and domestic violence victims can face economic hardship if the trauma affects their ability to maintain a job or stay in school or requires them to change housing.
Sexual and domestic violence programs across Massachusetts and around the country work with survivors to address the financial impact such as housing and homelessness, interruption of education and work, credit repair, and more. Programs may also help survivors learn basic financial literacy skills.
JDI put together an “Economic Empowerment Resource Directory” for advocates as an introduction to the breadth of topics of economic empowerment and offer helpful stepping-stones for survivors who are on the path to economic independence. Each section contains national, statewide, local and culturally specific resources, including descriptions, web sites and contact information.
Mass Resources offers a free online guide to public and private support for Massachusetts residents in need of housing, food, health care, and other basic services. Download here: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/vu/ma-assistance-programs.pdf
No one deserves to be abused or assaulted. No matter what you have been told, what happened to you isn’t your fault. Whether this experience happened recently or in the past, you can call a rape crisis center or a domestic violence program to get the support that you need. Trained advocates provide free and confidential support, connect you with resources, and respect your decisions.