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

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed September 2019

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 domestic violence counselor before you speak with a Victim/Witness Advocate. For a referral to a domestic violence program you can contact Jane Doe, Inc. or Safelink. If you prefer to speak with a counselor from a program focusing on same-sex violence, you can also call The Network/La Red or Fenway Health’s Violence Recovery Program.

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 they move to a less secure facility; if they have been let go for some period of time or permanently; if they escape; or if they will get parole;
  • You may have the right to get more information about the abusive person's criminal record and whether or not they are meeting the terms of their 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 this person. How can I find out when they are getting out of jail?

There is a form that you can use to find out when the abusive person is getting out of jail, even if they are in jail because of a crime against someone else. Register to receive notifications about an offender.

You can get this form from the Victim/Witness Advocate. You can also get it online from the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS). There are Victim Services Advocates at the CHSB, also. You can call the CHSB at (617) 660-4600, TTY: (617) 660-4606

Who to call for help

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