People of every age, ethnicity, gender, and orientation can be victims of a sexual assault. District Attorney Conley recognizes the physical, emotional, and psychological harm that victims can suffer as a result of this deeply personal crime, as well as the social, religious, or cultural taboos that may prevent victims or witnesses from coming forward to report it.
The Suffolk DA’s Sexual Assault Unit was created in 1999 in response to the specialized needs of sexual assault victims, their family members, and witnesses. DA Conley strongly believes in the importance of having a primary team of skilled and highly trained advocates and assistant district attorneys to respond to victims’ needs, requests for services, and to provide court-based intervention.
The Sexual Assault Unit is now part of DA Conley’s Family Protection and Sexual Assault Bureau. It employs six assistant district attorneys, two victim witness advocates, a civilian investigator, and an administrative assistant who are trained and equipped to meet the specialized needs of sexual assault survivors, prosecute offenders in Suffolk Superior Court, and lend assistance to staff in our nine district courts. They also work closely with service providers and other agencies to get victims all the resources they need to heal and recover from acts of sexual violence.
Wherever possible, victims work with the same prosecutor, victim witness advocate, and investigator until the case is resolved. Victim witness advocates help victims navigate through the court process and assist in crisis intervention and referrals for other services.
All SAU staff members are experienced professionals with many years of court experience and significant training in crisis intervention.
Please see the Victim Witness Assistance Program for more information about victim witness advocates.
Types of Crimes the Sexual Assault Unit Prosecutes
Rape – Rape is a sexual assault, which includes lack of consent, the threat or use of force, and/or penetration (this includes oral, vaginal, and/or anal penetration by either a body part or object). Rape also includes situations where the person is unable to give consent due to unconsciousness, intoxication, mental impairment, or being under the age of sixteen.
Indecent Assault and Battery – Indecent Assault and Battery is a sexual assault which includes offensive touching of the breast, inner thighs, pubic area, and buttocks without consent. Under Massachusetts law, any person under the age of 14 is unable to consent to this type of sexual touching.
Seeking Medical Care
Whether or not you think prosecution is right for you, it is strongly advised that you seek medical attention. The Department of Public Health’s SANE program (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner’s Program) is available at certain designated hospital sites in the Boston Area including, a program that provides sensitive and appropriate medical care for victims of sexual assaults. Below are the names of hospitals that provide the SANE program:
All Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners receive significant training on the collection of forensic evidence that can assist your case if you choose to prosecute.
Reporting an Assault to Law Enforcement
If you are a victim of sexual assault, get to a safe place and call 911. Reporting is always your choice. However, if you do choose to report the sexual assault, it is important to preserve evidence for collection. To prevent the evidence from being lost or tainted, it is important to remember the following before going to the hospital:
You may also report a sexual assault weeks, months or even years after the initial incident. If you or someone you know have been the victim of a sexual assault in Suffolk County, please contact the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Sexual Assault Unit at (617) 619-4350 or your local police department at the following phone numbers:
After reporting a sexual assault, a detective will meet with you to take a statement and write a report. Your report will be forwarded to our unit and assigned to an advocate and prosecutor.
Harassment Prevention Orders
Under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 258E, people who have suffered harassment may ask a judge at the Superior Court, Boston Municipal Court, district courts, or Juvenile Court to issue an Order to protect them from further harassment or abuse free of charge. These Orders will be recorded and enforced by law enforcement agencies. For any emergency that occurs after court hours or on weekends, you may contact your local police department and ask to be put in contact with a judge.
Victim witness services available to survivors of sexual assault include:
Victim of Violent Crime Compensation – One of our advocates can assist you with your Victim of Violent Crime form and answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to contact us with any compensation or benefit concerns.
Crisis Intervention and Support – We can help you review your options and locate a mental health service or support group that can meet your needs.
Court Notification – We will notify you of every court date in your case.
Bail Notification Services – Our Victim Witness Advocacy Program offers Bail Notification Services for yourself and your family, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
Education about the Criminal Justice System/Your Rights Under the Victim Bill of Rights – The court system can be an intimidating and frustrating experience for any survivor. Our advocacy staff will make sure that your rights under the Victim Bill of Rights (MGL, ch 258B) are respected and you understand the court process.
Trial Preparation/In Court Advocacy and Support – We will help prepare you for the trial process and your testimony. We are also on hand to offer in-court support throughout the trial process.
Victim Impact Statement Preparation – Under the Victim Bill of Rights you have the right to be heard at sentencing in an oral or written statement about the effects of your assault. Our staff will work with you to prepare a statement that you feel is appropriate and meaningful.
Post Sentencing Issues – We will assist you with applying for CORI certification, making contact with the Parole Board and keep you updated on the status of any appellate review our your case.
There are many resources for survivors in the Boston area. They include the following:
Boston Area Rape Crisis Center
Phone: (617) 492-8306
24hr. hotline: (617) 492-RAPE
In addition to their hotline, B.A.R.C.C. offers group and individual counseling for survivors and their families. Their office is MBTA accessible on the Red Line.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery
Phone: (617) 667-8141
They are currently accepting referrals for their therapy group for rape victims/survivors. Their survivor support services are free of charge and are MBTA accessible on the Green Line, “D” Train.
The Trauma Center
Phone: (617) 731-3200 extension 421 or 422
The Trauma Center offers group and individual counseling for victims of violence. They are located at 227 Babcock Street in Brookline, and are MBTA accessible on the Green Line, “B” Train.
Cambridge Health Alliance
Victims of Violence Program
Phone: (617) 591-6360
This program offer group and individual services to survivors of violence.
Community Programs Against Sexual Assault (CPASA)
Phone: (617) 427-4470
This program is offered through the Roxbury Multi-Service Center, 317 Blue Hill Ave. Its mission is to reduce the domestic violence, sexual assaults and related crimes through multicultural outreach, education, crisis intervention and advocacy services, to empower survivors, and the community at-large. CPASA offers:
- Public Education and Agency Training
- Discussion Groups
- Crisis Intervention
- A Women’s Self-Development Series
- Teens Networking Teens (617-445-7574 )
- S.A.V. Ourselves (Sisters against Violence) 617-541-5416
- The Women’s Roundtable
- Women of Color United Against Domestic Violence and Rapes