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Survivor Legal Concerns

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 are detailed below. 

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 certain rights and protections as a victim.  It  is important to understand your legal rights and options before filing a report.

How can BARCC assist me?
A BARCC legal advocate can help you understand your rights, explain the reporting process, help you find out where to make a report, and may be able to accompany you to the police department. 

Where do I report?
A report is made at the police department in the area where the incident occurred.

How much time do I have to decide whether to report?
There are laws that set time limits for making reports, but they vary depending on the type of sexual assault, and there are some exceptions. We recommend speaking with a BARCC legal advocate or with law enforcement if you are unsure whether you are within the time limit. Generally, if you were over 16 years old at the time of the assault, you have 15 years from the date of a rape to make a report; if you were under 16 years old at the time of the rape, there is no time limit for making a report.

Evidence collection

If you want evidence collected, you must be seen in a hospital within five days of the assault. If you would like a BARCC medical advocate for support during this process, you can ask the hospital to request one. For survivors 15 and under, all evidence kits are analyzed, even if it's not reported to the police. For survivors 16 and over, all kits will be held for 15 years, whether or not the assault was reported to the police; if it is reported, the evidence may be analyzed. Our legal advocates can help you understand the process and your options. 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 English and Spanish. 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.

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