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BARCC Updates

New protections for survivors in Massachusetts!

pen and paper

2013 is barely started, and already it's been a tough few days for those of us who care about issues of sexual violence. But there was a bright spot in Massachusetts today as Governor Deval Patrick signed a new bill into law. The bill, S. 2402, is An Act Relative to Housing Rights for Victims of Domestic Violence, Rape, Sexual Assault, and Stalking provides important and incredibly meaningful protections to survivors. 

One thing we've heard from survivors for years is how important having safe, stable housing is to their healing. Indeed, new research bears out that this is true even at a physiological level.

In situations where survivors have had to leave their homes, they've often run into financial and legal barriers, even when staying in their home has proven to be unsafe. Many survivors have also faced discrimination from prospective landlords when the landlord found out about abuse or violence in the past. This bill provides survivors with rights and protections while also protecting the rights of property owners. A few key components of the bill include:

  • allowing survivors to terminate a lease early without a financial penalty if it's no longer safe to stay in their current home following violence.
  • protection from discrimination in future housing if they have experienced violence or abuse.
  • a provision that allows survivors to have their locks changed to increase safety.

Two BARCC staff--Director of Client Services and Advocacy Stephanie DeCandia and Senior Case Manager Clare Namugga--have worked tirelessly for several years to translate the experiences and needs of BARCC's clients into concrete provisions and legislative energy around this bill.

There are a number of MA legislators and officials who deserve thanks, and you can use the links to contact them:

This law would not exist without the generous and invaluable contributions of several staff from Greater Boston Legal Services in particular Barbara Zimbel and Linda Garcia.

As with much of our work, we are stronger when we work in collaboration with those who share our concerns and purpose. The passage of this bill was also the work of a dedicated group of advocates and community partners in the Safe Communities Coalition. In addition to BARCC, that coalition includes: AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts; ACLU of Massachusetts; the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Program; HEARTH; Homes for Families; HomeStart; Jane Doe, Inc.; Massachusetts Citizens for Children; MA Commission on the Status of Women; Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC); Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants; On the Rise; UAW Regional CAP; the Victim Rights Law Center; and the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts.

Please note: We've updated this post with the names of all the MA legislators who supported this bill. If your legislator is one of them, please take some time to thank them for their support.

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Posted by Meg

Meg formerly served BARCC as its coordinator of Community Education and Outreach. Prior to that, she was involved with various aspects of sexual violence prevention, education, and response at Northeastern University and Williams College. Her work focuses on mobilizing communities to prevent sexual violence.

1 Comment

  1. Congratulations on this great takes a community of healers and visionaries

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