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Exploring Your Legal Options

The following post was written by our team of legal advocates.

Last month, the Boston Globe ran “Assault Survivor Wants to Turn Detective,” an Ask Amy column in which the advice author addressed a question from a survivor of sexual assault who was considering investigating and reporting the man who assaulted her when she was in high school. As legal advocates working daily with survivors of sexual violence, we wanted to expand upon the advice and perspective offered.

First, it is important to send the clear, unambiguous message to survivors that they are not responsible for the public's safety. Offenders may reoffend but the responsibility for their behavior belongs squarely with the offender and with public safety personnel.

Second, rape crisis advocates can help a survivor look at their situation comprehensively and determine the options that will most help them feel a sense of peace, safety, and justice. The decision to report an assault to police is a big one, and it can affect many aspects of life, including the resurfacing of traumatic memories, frustration with the limits of the justice system, and handling the reactions of family and friends.

Meanwhile, the ultimate outcome cannot be predicted. We agree with much of of the advice given to “Two Decades of Guilt,” but would add that she should speak with a knowledgeable legal advocate for survivors of sexual assault to take the time to explore what justice might look like.

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Stephanie DeCandia
Stephanie DeCandia is BARCC's director of programs. She provides oversight of and strategic direction for BARCC's client services and​ advocacy programs as well as its legislative and policy work. She first started at BARCC as a​ legal intern and also served as the Victim Rights Law Center’s supervising staff attorney (when it was a BARCC program) as well as BARCC's legal advocacy coordinator, manager of system advocacy and policy, and director of client services and advocacy. In addition to her work at BARCC, Stephanie is a part-­time lecturer at Northeastern University, where she teaches a class entitled Sexual Violence: Counseling, Programs, and​ Policy. She earned a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law and a​ bachelor’s degree in social work from Providence College.

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