The Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) and the Victim Witness Assistance Board are pleased to present this comprehensive update to In the Aftermath of Crime: a Guide to Victim Rights and Services in Massachusetts.
First published by this office in 1997, this Guide has been utilized and relied upon by victims and survivors and Victim Advocates across the Commonwealth for over a decade. Within these pages, we have endeavored to update the first publication with new and enhanced information to assist and support those impacted by crime and those committed to serving them. We also provide the same content in this website section. We dedicate this publication to all victims and survivors of crime whose experiences educate us and whose courage inspires us.
The primary goal of the Guide is to provide basic information to victims and survivors, and those who support and assist them, as they embark on their journeys toward healing and justice. The content focuses on the emotional and psychological impact of crime, the complexities of navigating the criminal justice system and the rights to which victims, witnesses and families are entitled under Massachusetts law. We hope this Guide will answer many of your questions and help you consider next steps and a range of resources and services available to you. We encourage you to reach out directly to those Advocates who can assist you with more detailed information specific to your case and needs.
For victim service providers, many of whom graciously gave their time to ensure that the information contained here is accurate and clear, our goal is to offer you have a readily available, comprehensive and user-friendly resource as you assist victims and survivors.
MOVA and the Victim Witness Assistance Board dedicated resources to this update as part of its mandate under the Massachusetts Victim Bill of Rights to ensure that victims, witnesses and families have necessary information related to the court process and to their rights. As you will read, the Victim Bill of Rights sets forth the procedural rights of victims during the prosecution of a case and the post-conviction process and outlines the services to be provided to them by the Commonwealth, including the Victim Witness Assistance Programs in each District Attorney’s Office and in a number of other criminal justice agencies. The Guide is intended to provide an updated, comprehensive overview of victims’ rights and services within the Commonwealth. Since new legislation, court decisions, and services change over time, this new Guide’s format will enable us to make updates more easily and swiftly.
Finally, there are a few practical points about the Guide that are important to highlight. Most of the information contained in the Guide, with the exception of Sections Six and Seven, are directed to victims and survivors. Sections Six and Seven are specific to victim service providers, but they may be useful for victims and survivors as well. You will note that some legal language used in this Guide may not be familiar. We have provided a Glossary of Legal Terms that we hope will help familiarize you with these terms. Overall, it is important to note that “prosecutor” and “Assistant District Attorney” are used interchangeably and that the term “Advocate” is used to mean any victim service provider working with a victim of crime whether in a criminal justice-based or community-based capacity.
We recognize that this Guide cannot possibly cover all of the unique issues or “exceptions to the rule” that may arise in the course of a criminal case. It is important to always discuss your specific questions with the prosecutor and Victim Witness Advocate handling your case to ensure that the information you have is accurate and relevant to you and your experience. We simply hope that this Guide may be a useful and empowering tool in your journey toward healing and justice and in participating fully and meaningfully in the court process.