Domestic Violence Program

The Domestic Violence Program is comprised of a core group of Assistant District Attorneys, Victim Witness Advocates and other professionals who are trained to address the unique challenges involved in investigating and prosecuting a domestic violence case. 

Prosecutors aggressively pursue criminal charges on behalf of victims who are often in fear of their abusers and reluctant to testify.  Victim Witness Advocates offer support and resources for anyone who chooses to obtain a protective order and/or leave their abuser.  

Our team members collaborate with law enforcement, social service providers, schools, hospitals, and probation officers.  The groups meet regularly to identify, assess and track high-risk domestic situations. 

We also work to raise public awareness about domestic violence and inform the community about resources that are available.  The goal is to break down barriers and encourage victims to disclose. 

Safety Planning Tips for Domestic Violence Victims

If you are still in the relationship:

  • Think of a safe place to go if an argument occurs.  Avoid rooms with no exits (bathrooms) or rooms with easy access to weapons (kitchens).
  • Make a list of safe people to contact.
  • If you have a cell phone, keep it with you at all times.
  • Memorize important phone numbers.
  • Establish a "code word" or "sign" so that family, friends, teachers or co-workers know when to call for help.
  • Think about what you will say to your partner if he/she becomes violent.

If you have left the relationship:

  • Change your phone number.
  • Screen calls.
  • Save and document all contacts, messages, injuries or other incidents involving the batterer.
  • Change locks.
  • Avoid staying alone.
  • Plan how to get away if confronted by an abusive partner.

If you have to meet your partner, do it in a public place:

  • Vary your routine.
  • Notify school and work contacts.
  • Call a service agency for victims of abuse.

If you leave the relationship or are thinking of leaving, keep important documents with you so you can apply for benefits or take legal action.

Important papers you should take include:

  • social security cards and birth certificates for you and your children;
  • your marriage license;
  • leases or deeds;
  • your checkbook;
  • your credit cards;
  • bank statements;
  • insurance policies;
  • proof of income for you and your spouse (pay stubs or W-2's);
  • and any documentation of past incidents of abuse (photos, police reports, medical records, etc.).

Safety Planning Resources:
Jane Doe, Inc.
Be Safe, Sensible, Prepared Brochure
Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Safety Plan
Women's Law: Staying Safe
National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence Safety Planning 


Sexual Assault

  • What can you do if you have been sexually assaulted?
  • Go to a safe place.
  • Call someone you trust to be with you, like a rape crisis counselor, friend or parent
  • Call the local or campus police
  • Don't shower, bathe, or douche after the attack
  • Seek care at a hospital, even if you do not see any visible injuries
  • Preserve physical evidence, such as clothing

Common Questions

  1. If I didn’t report it immediately, is it too late?

    No.  While some forensic evidence can only be collected within a certain period of time after a sexual assault, there may be other types of evidence that can be obtained such as clothing, bed sheets, and phone records.
     
  2. Should I go to the hospital if I am not seriously injured?

    There are many reasons why you should go to the hospital.  You may be injured more than you think or you many have internal injuries that need immediate attention.  If you have been sexually assault, evidence of the assault can be documented and collected, even if ejaculation did not occur.  You may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease that could require medical treatment.
     
  3. Is it sexual assault if it was done by my boyfriend or husband?

    A sexual assault can happen between anyone, including strangers, acquaintances, friends, partners, spouses or family members.  Whenever someone forces you to engage in a sexual act by force and without that person’s consent it may be a sexual assault.

Related links on sexual assault:
Jane Doe, Inc.
Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection: Where to get help  

 

Children Witnesses to Violence

If you’re in an abusive relationship and have children, you’re not the only person in the household affected.  This is true even if your children were not in the room, you were quiet, you covered the bruising, or they are too young to understand what was happening. 

Babies exposed to domestic violence may appear detached and unresponsive to adults.  Battered women may not be able to provide sufficient nurture and care, which can lead babies to become passive and with no expectation of having their needs met.  Conversely, babies may cry and fuss constantly for attention or in reaction to the stress.  Infants also can experience sleep disturbances and eating disorders.

Toddlers and preschoolers may experience sleeping and eating disorders, stomachaches, headaches, and nightmares related to domestic violence.

School age children may exhibit signs of recurrent mood swings, erratic school attendance, and inability to concentrate.  Poor social skills may also lead to conflicts with classmates and teachers.

Adolescents who have witnessed domestic violence may have eating disorders, drop out of school, run away from home, become delinquent, act out sexually, abuse drugs and alcohol, or commit suicide.

Moreover, children who witness domestic violence have a higher risk of developing serious adult health problems, such as tobacco use, substance abuse, obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression, and unintended pregnancy.

A child may acquire a sense of worthlessness due to verbal abuse such as shaming, blaming, intimidation, and threats.  This can lead a child to believe he or she is incapable of being loved and incapable of success. There may also be serious negative effects on a child’s self esteem if he or she feels responsible for the violence and are unable to control or stop it. Children may experience chronic, elevated levels of tension and stress in an attempt to avoid or control the violence.

Experiencing domestic violence can have negative effects on a child’s relationships with others.  Children who witness domestic violence may learn to use violence themselves.  Child witnesses may thus view power, control, aggression, and violence as the only way to get needs met.  Boys especially may approve of violence and generate attitudes justifying their own use of violence, and have generally shown more frequent and external problems including hostility and aggression. This aggressive behavior may lead them to fight with siblings and peers.  Girls, however, often become passive and withdrawn, tending to suffer from depression. Girls are also more likely to become victims of domestic violence in future relationships. However, some findings have indicated that girls can actually exhibit more aggressive behaviors as they age.

Resources for children who witness domestic violence:
Jane Doe, Inc.
Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

 

Domestic Violence Initiatives

Middlesex District Attorney's Domestic Violence Pro Bono Initiative

Assistant District Attorneys are unable to represent domestic violence victims during the restraining order process because the order is a civil document.  Many domestic violence victims are unable to afford an attorney since it is often the abuser who controls the household finances. To address this problem, the Middlesex District Attorney’s office has partnered with Boston-area civil law firms to identify victims who need legal assistance and then assign a private attorney to provide representation free of charge.

This first-of-its kind public-private partnership is designed to address the significant gap in the way domestic violence victims are served during the restraining order process.  Restraining order hearings are critical, as they not only work to assure that the abuser cannot come in contact with the victim, but also frequently address other important issues such as assuring continued child support, utility payments, and healthcare payments.

Click here to learn how to obtain a restraining order.

Domestic Violence PSA Project

The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with Middlesex Partnerships for Youth hosts an annual contest to produce a public service announcement about teen dating violence.  This contest was designed to get students involved in raising awareness and promoting discussion with their peers.  To watch the most recent PSA winner, please click here.

Teen dating violence resources:
REACH MA
Love is Not Abuse
NCJRS Teen Dating Violence


Cut It Out National Domestic Violence Prevention Program

Cut It Out is a nation-wide domestic violence prevention program geared towards salon professionals.  The initiative recognizes that hair stylists are in an ideal position to detect signs of domestic abuse.   Our office provides salon workers with literature about how to the signs of domestic abuse, how to talk to victims and how to help.  

Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse Training Initiative

In recent years, a strong connection has been documented linking domestic violence abuse and animal abuse.  Animal abuse can often signal a lethal domestic situation and is one of the risk factors that authorities use to determine whether a domestic violence situation is high risk.  Our initiative offers training to law enforcement and first responders about the correlation between domestic abuse and animal abuse. 

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