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The People

A survivor may choose to disclose a sexual assault to various people. Each person plays a different role in helping the survivor find their path to healing and justice.

Advocates: Work to support survivors and their families. Every city and town in Massachusetts is served by a rape crisis center. Free and confidential services available for survivors, family and friends include 24-hour hotlines, counseling, legal and medical advocacy, and support groups.

  • Medical advocates: meet survivors at the hospital emergency room and offer support and information about the sexual assault exam and evidence collection kit. After an assault, medical advocates provide referrals, resources and assistance with follow-up medical issues.
  • Legal advocates: help survivors understand their options and rights within the criminal justice system and may be available to go to court proceedings.

Police First Responder: The first officer a survivor speaks to after calling 911 or deciding to report from a hospital ER. This officer:

  • Takes the survivor’s preliminary statement.
  • Helps address any immediate health, safety and evidence related issues.
  • Turns the case over to a certified sexual assault investigator.

Certified Sexual Assault Investigator: Every city and town in Massachusetts is required to have a specially trained certified sexual assault investigator on their police force. This officer:

  • Investigates and prepares sexual assault cases for potential prosecution.
  • Serves as the primary contact person between the survivor and police department.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE): These nurses are specially trained to take care of sexual assault survivors at the emergency room. SANEs:

  • Provide medical care and preventative treatment for STIs and pregnancy.
  • Are trained to collect high quality forensic evidence.
  • Check this list for SANE hospitals in your area.

Crime Lab: The crime lab analyzes and reports on evidence collected in the hospital emergency room during the sexual assault exam as well as evidence found at the scene of the crime.

District Attorney: The district attorney  or “D.A.” is an elected official who serves as the chief prosecutor for a county or region. As the lawyer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, they work closely with law enforcement and the victim in the prosecution of a case.

Victim/Witness Advocate: Each district attorney’s office has a team of victim/witness advocates who provide information and support to victims of crime as they move through the court process.

Attorney General: The office of the attorney general enforces and interprets the law on the state level. The attorney general’s office manages Victim Compensation, a fund that can reimburse victims of crime for certain expenses they incur directly as a result of the crime.

Forensics for Survivors © 2015 All Rights Reserved

This project was supported by Grant #2009-WF-AX-0014 awarded by the Violence Against Women Grants Office, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety & Security Office of Grants & Research and subgranted to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. Points of view in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice or the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety Programs Division.


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