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"I spoke out to put a face to the issue for the millions of women, men and children who suffer in silence and to say that you are not alone. Help is available." ~ Ayanna Pressley, Boston City Councilor (Photo by Christopher Mason)

What to expect when you call a program

Sexual and domestic violence programs offer free and confidential counseling and advocacy. According to Massachusetts law, advocates at these programs are strictly prohibited from sharing information about clients without their consent with anyone, including the police, family members, doctors, teachers, and others.

In special cases where a person who cannot advocate for themselves (a child, elder or disabled adult) is being neglected or abused, providers will engage the help of special protective service programs designed to help. These programs include Elder Protective Services, Department of Children and Families, and Disabled Persons Protection Commission. If you have any questions or concerns about confidentiality, it’s always a good idea to talk with your advocate about your rights and steps you can take to protect your privacy and confidentiality.

Local sexual and domestic violence programs provide an array of services. While not every program offers the same exact thing, every program is committed to providing quality, culturally-relevant, community-based services for survivors, friends and family, and the broader community.

When you call a program, you can expect to find:

  • Someone who cares and can help. All programs have trained advocates who can talk with you about your situation, your safety, and your options. They can also help you identify and obtain housing, legal and medical support as well as shelters, services and other resources for you and your children. Programs can also help family members, friends, and colleagues with concerns. Sometimes you just need someone to listen.
  • Safety planning. If you are in immediate danger, or are thinking about leaving the perpetrator, hotline advocates can talk through a safety plan with you over the phone.
  • Information about your rights. You may have questions about whether you have to notify the police or your school. You may have questions about moving out of state, especially if you have children in common with the person abusing you. Advocates can help you find answers.
  • Advocacy services. All programs have trained advocates to help with common concerns including: safety, health, family and children services, welfare, immigration, housing, legal issues, medical issues, and more.
  • Referrals to programs. Advocates can help you find the kinds of services you or someone you care about need:
    • Support groups for children, youth, and adults. Support groups can offer a chance to meet others who have had similar experiences and is an important part of healing.
    • Legal advocacy. You may have questions about restraining orders, criminal or civil matters, or how to keep your children safe. All programs can provide assistance in obtaining a restraining order for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Some programs offer legal advocacy. Some may provide legal counsel and others may work with you to find an attorney.
    • Crisis services. Many programs offer 24-hour access through their hotline to services for those in crisis.
    • Emergency shelter. Many programs offer temporary shelter or safe homes.
    • Transitional housing. Some programs have longer term housing for victims and survivors.

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