Removing Barriers for Survivors
Having access to an advocate at The Center for Hope and Healing, Inc means that you are connected with someone who will listen to your needs and concerns, and then work hard to provide you with connections, resources, and opportunities.
CHH recognizes that systemic oppressions and discrimination still exist in many of the major systems with which survivors in our communities are engaged. Our commitment is to uplift the voices and rights of all survivors to ensure their access to systems of care and empower them to stand up for their rights.
It can be frustrating and difficult to navigate systems alone, or with little support. Having the support of a CHH advocate can help survivors navigate barriers such as: housing, immigration, language needs, disability, technology, and so much more.
How We Can Help
You still have the choice to go to the emergency room for a forensic exam (rape kit) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You may choose to go to the hospital after an assault. Even if you are not thinking of reporting the assault, a good check on your physical health may be important to treat or prevent future issues.
A medical advocate can support you during a sexual assault exam and evidence collection. If you go to a hospital that is part of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program, they will call the Rape Crisis Center in your area. If you go to an emergency room that is not part of the SANE program, you can ask the hospital to call the Rape Crisis Center hotline of your area for a medical advocate. If you go to Lowell General Hospital they will call The Center for Hope and Healing Inc. and one of our well trained medical advocates will be ready to support you.
If you wish to have the forensic evidence collection kit done, it is important to have in mind that the optimal time to do so would be within 120 hours (5 days) of the assault. For best evidence collection results, it is suggested to not bathe, shower, brush your teeth, or go to the bathroom after the assault to preserve the evidence; although, you can still go to the hospital even if you have done any or all of the above.
If you would like to seek medical attention after 120 hours following the assault, you can go to your primary care doctor or health center for a medical checkup.
In some cases of sexual assault, complex legal questions arise making it confusing and scary to navigate the system alone.
Our well trained advocates can provide you with assistance and support as you engage with the criminal or civil legal system. They can accompany you in matters involving reporting the assault, pursuing criminal charges against the perpetrator, obtaining and enforcing personal protection orders and other legal matters related to the sexual assault. Legal advocates can also help with finding quality legal services through referrals.
Our advocates can provide support with a number of types of legal advocacy needs such as: housing advocacy, systems/public assistance advocacy, immigration advocacy, and more. We work with a number of free and confidential service providers in the state, and work hard to ensure that you have the support that you need and deserve.
Forensics for Survivors
A site to support the navigation of medical and legal resources available to survivors following an experience of sexual assault https://surviverape.org/
Massachusetts Kit Tracking for Survivors
Track the location and status of your evidence collection kit. https://ma.track-kit.us/
Victim Bill of Rights in the State of Massachusetts
Mass Legal Help
Practical information about legal rights in Massachusetts https://www.masslegalhelp.org/
Victim Rights Law Center
Northeast Legal Aid
Ascentria Care Alliance
How do I get a restraining order?
A Protection Order is a legal option for survivors of sexual violence. It can be part of a safety plan developed by you and an advocate but may not be the option for everyone. Courts have the authority to issue an order for the perpetrator to no longer have further contact with you. A restraining order is a civil order, and does not carry criminal penalties unless any of the provisions of the order are violated, then there is a criminal penalty including an arrest. District, superior, and probate courts can issue two different types of restraining orders in Massachusetts: 209A Protective Order and/or 258E Harassment Prevention Order
What is the difference between a 209A Protective Order and 258E Harassment Prevention Order?
A 209A protective order is a court order that protects you from being abused by a member or former member of your household or family or someone you have been dating. Protective orders are also called “restraining orders,” “abuse prevention orders,” or “209A’s.” Click here to read more.
Chapter 258E allows a judge to issue a variety of types of court orders. A judge can order the defendant to not abuse or harass you, not contact you in any way, to stay away from your home or work, and/or to pay you money. Click here to read more.
What is Victim Compensation?
Compensation for victims of violent crimes, and their families, is available through a program mandated by MGL c.258C, and administered by the Office of the Attorney General’s Victim Compensation and Assistance Division. The law provides survivors who have been sexually assaulted in Massachusetts with a free forensic exam at a local Massachusetts hospital, regardless if the crime is reported to law enforcement. The forensic sexual assault exam may be performed by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) or other medical provider.
The Victim Compensation Division may assist with physician and hospital expenses, laboratory costs, ambulance transportation, medications prescribed or administered at the time of the exam and aftercare deemed medically necessary. In addition, the fund may compensate for costs related to obtaining testing for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
The application can be found here.
What is a sexual assault forensic exam/rape kit?
A forensic evidence collection kit also known as a ‘rape kit’ is a box which contains items for evidence collection.
A sexual assault forensic exam is the medical process by which the evidence collection takes place.
Should I get a rape kit done?
After a sexual assault, you may face emotional, medical, and legal decisions. There are no right or wrong choices, it is about what justice looks like for you.
Allowing evidence of your assault to be collected does not mean that you have to report it to the police now or in the future, and if later you decide to report you may have evidence to support your claims and make a criminal case more successful. Because the collection of evidence is time sensitive, you may decide to have the kit done and stored for the next 6 months.
What does a medical advocate do?
Our medical advocates are on call 24 hours a day to support you in the emergency room following an assault.
CHH medical advocates are trained to provide you the following services:
- Meet you at the hospital emergency room and stay with you during your visit
- Advocate for your needs with the hospital staff
- Explain sexual assault exams and evidence collection kits
- Provide information so you can make the best possible decisions for your situation
- Talk with your loved ones who come to the hospital about how to best support you
- Help you connect with a variety of resources for safety and support
- Refer you to CHH for free and confidential counseling
What should I expect when I go into the hospital?
At the hospital the following services are available to you:
- Accompaniment by a rape crisis counselor/medical advocate
- General physical exam
- HIV PEP and STD testing
- Emergency contraception for pregnancy prevention
- Forensic exam (rape kit; you can decline any part of the evidence collection kit.)
- If you wish to report the assault to the police they can be called; it is an option and is not required. Going to the hospital is not the same as calling the police.