Survivor legal issues
After a sexual assault, people often feel they have lost control of their lives. They are often afraid that getting involved in the criminal or civil justice system will take away more control over what happens to them.
Our legal advocates’ goal is to help survivors get accurate information about their options so they can make the decisions that are right for them. Some legal issues that survivors may be concerned about include:
- Privacy: In Massachusetts, many laws protect the privacy of sexual assault survivors. For example, all police reports related to sexual violence are strictly confidential. In cases of rape and attempted rape, the survivor’s name is kept private, including being blacked-out in written records. A survivor may also request that information like an address, telephone number, place of employment, or school be kept private. It’s best to make this request as early as possible.
- Reporting to the Police: Filing a police report is a personal decision for you to make. Under Massachusetts law, you have rights as a victim and it is important for you to understand your legal rights and options before filing a report. BARCC legal advocates can help you understand these rights.
If you decide to file a report, you should go to the police department in the city/town where the incident occurred. A BARCC legal advocate can help you find out where to go and can accompany you to the police station.
In Massachusetts, you have fifteen years from the date of the sexual assault to file a police report. If the assault happened when you were under 16, you have 27 years since the incident to file the report. There are exceptions to these limits. A BARCC legal advocate can help you understand these exceptions and all the laws that might effect your decision to report to the police.
- Evidence Collection: If you want evidence collected, you must be seen in a hospital within 5 days of the assault. Our medical advocates can go with you to the hospital. The evidence kit will be held anonymously in the crime lab for up to 6 months or until you file a police report. When you file a police report it may be analyzed. If you need more then 6 months to make a decision about filing with the police you can request an extension. Our legal advocates can help you do this. Both the prosecution and the defense will have access to any results from the evidence that is collected.
- Safety: There are several ways to be protected from further contact with a perpetrator. We can help you understand your options.
- Immigration status: There are protections and services available to immigrant crime victims. We have services in Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole. If you need help in another language, please let us know.
Our legal advocates can help you with these and any other legal issues you may be facing after your assault.
24-hour hotline: 800.841.8371