I am still confused about how this works. Who can I talk to about it?

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated October 2009

You can call the District Attorney's office and ask to speak to a Victim/Witness Advocate. Tell them you are trying to decide whether to file a criminal complaint and that you are not sure what to expect. They can explain everything to you.

Some Victim/Witness Advocates might pressure you to go forward with the criminal complaint. It is their job to guide victims of crime through the criminal justice system. For this reason, you may want to talk to a
battered women's counselor before you speak with a Victim/Witness Advocate. If you want to talk to a counselor from a program focusing on same-sex violence, you can also call the
Violence Recovery Program, the
Network for Battered Lesbians and Bisexual Women, or the
Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project.

Also, you may want to call a private lawyer. Legal aid programs in Massachusetts do not handle criminal cases. There are a number of lawyer referral programs that can refer you to a private lawyer. If you have low income, they may charge you a lower rate. Some private lawyers do not charge for a first visit or phone call.

Do I have any rights in the criminal system?

In Massachusetts, we have a "Victim Bill of Rights." As the victim of a crime, you have the following rights:

  • The right to information about the Criminal Justice System;
  • The right to information about the criminal case involving you;
  • The right to go to court hearings and be heard;
  • The right to prepare a "Victim Impact Statement;"
  • The right to talk to the District Attorney's Office at important points in the case;
  • The right to money for certain items and costs from the Victim Compensation fund, witness fees, and "restitution" (money that the court might charge the person who abused you
  • The right to be told where the person who abused you is, such as: if he moves to a less secure facility; if he has been let go for some period of time or permanently; if he escapes; or if he will get parole;
  • You may have the right to get more information about the abuser's criminal record and whether or not he is meeting the terms of his sentence;
  • The right to other protections in the Criminal Justice System.

For more information on these rights, call the Victim/Witness Advocate.

The person who abused me is in jail, but not for a crime against me. I am afraid of him. How can I find out when he is getting out of jail?

There is a form that you can use to find out when the abuser is getting out of jail, even if he is in jail because of a crime against someone else. The form is called an
Application for Notification of an Offender's Release.

You can get this form from the Victim/Witness Advocate. You can also get it online from the
Criminal History Systems Board ("CHSB") in Chelsea. There are Victim Services Advocates at the CHSB, also. You can call the CHSB at (617) 660-4600, TTY: (617) 660-4606

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