1. What is SAFEPLAN?
SAFEPLAN is a partnership program between MOVA, community-based domestic violence and sexual assault agencies, and the courts. SAFEPLAN works in collaboration with local District Attorneys’ Offices and other allied criminal justice and social service agencies. SAFEPLAN provides specially trained and certified advocates to help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking seeking protection from abuse.
SAFEPLAN Advocates are employed by local, community-based domestic violence and sexual assault agencies in 41 district and probate courts across the state. The services they provide to victims are free of charge.
The SAFEPLAN Program is grateful for funding from the following sources:
- The Massachusetts Legislature
- The Victims of Crime Act
- The Violence Against Women Act
- The Edward J. Byrne Memorial Law Enforcement Grant
For further information on the SAFEPLAN Program contact the SAFEPLAN staff at the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance at 617-586-1340.
2. What does a SAFEPLAN Advocate do?
A SAFEPLAN Advocate can offer the following services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking:
- Conduct a risk and needs assessment;
- Inform victims of their options so that they may explore their legal rights and options in civil and criminal court proceedings;
- Assist with the restraining order and harassment prevention order process, explain the restraining order and harassment prevention order laws, and provide in-court advocacy;
- Develop a personalized safety plan;
- Offer information and education about domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking; and
- Provide resource referrals
*Note: SAFEPLAN Advocates are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice, but are able to provide a referral to an attorney if one is needed.*
All SAFEPLAN services are offered free of charge.
3. How can a SAFEPLAN Advocate be reached?
- SAFEPLAN Advocates are employees of community-based domestic violence and sexual assault agencies and are primarily stationed at their local courthouse.
- An Advocate can generally be reached during court hours or by contacting the local domestic violence or sexual assault agency. View the list of local agencies and courts .
- In case of an emergency, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking should dial 911.
4. What type of training does a SAFEPLAN Advocate have?
SAFEPLAN Advocates receive four days of training provided by MOVA. SAFEPLAN Advocates also complete all training mandated by the local domestic violence agency that employs them. The court advocacy training covers topics such as: the dynamics of domestic violence, the Abuse Prevention Act (M.G.L. Ch. 209A), the Harassment Prevention Order Act (G.L. c. 258E) , victim compensation, cultural sensitivity, and state and community resources available to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. After completing the SAFEPLAN training, Advocates must shadow experienced advocates for a minimum of 20 hours before becoming certified.
5. Why are SAFEPLAN Advocates necessary?
The goal of a SAFEPLAN Advocate is to provide court advocacy, support services and referrals throughout the protective order process and to help make that process less intimidating and more successful. SAFEPLAN Advocates provide a crucial link for victims to obtain counseling, shelter and other empowering services from local domestic violence agencies. SAFEPLAN Advocates can offer the kind of assistance that makes a difference in keeping victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking safe.
6. What is the difference between a SAFEPLAN Advocate and a Victim Witness Advocate?
SAFEPLAN Advocates assist victims with the civil protective order process. Victim Witness Advocates are employees of district attorneys’ offices who provide court-based services to crime victims during criminal proceedings. The Victim Witness Advocates are mandated to afford certain rights and services to crime victims as defined in the Massachusetts Bill of Rights (M.G.L. Ch. 258B, S.3). SAFEPLAN and Victim Witness Advocates work together to offer comprehensive coordinated services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
7. Where can I get more information?
For more information about services for domestic violence victims throughout Massachusetts call SAFELINK, the toll-free 24- hour statewide domestic violence hotline at 1-877-785-2020, visit Jane Doe Inc. The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence or the Help Directory.