What is Domestic Violence?

  • Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior in intimate relationships whereby the behavior of another person is controlled through humiliation, intimidation, fear, and often intentional physical, emotional or sexual injury.
  • Motivated by power and control.
  • Domestic violence crosses all ethnic, socioeconomic, and age groups and is also prevalent in same sex relationships.
  • Domestic violence is a pattern, not an argument every once in a while or a bad mood after a bad day.
  • Domestic violence is characterized by a predictable cycle of behavior.

Who is affected by Domestic Violence?


  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 7 boys are sexually abused.
  • Over 80% of abusive partners had themselves either been victims of child abuse or had witnessed their mothers being abused.
  • 40-60% of men who abuse women also abuse their children.
  • Children who witness are significantly more likely to have problems in behavioral, physical, emotional, social and cognitive development.


  • A woman is beaten in America every 15 seconds.
  • 85-95% of all victims of domestic violence are female.
  • 3 to 4 women each day are murdered in the U.S. by a male partner.
  • Domestic violence accounts for 30% of all homicide victims.


  • Men can be victims of abuse.
  • Often times men do not come forward because of societal expectations and beliefs


  • One in five high school students reports being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.


  • Can be battered by adult children or caretakers.
  • Unable to defend themselves and financially dependent.

If You Have Been Raped or Sexually Assaulted, Follow These Guidelines:

  • Do NOT change clothes, bathe, shower, eat, drink, or go to the bathroom before going to the hospital. Doing these things could tamper with important evidence.
  • Go directly to the hospital. At the hospital, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and a medical advocate from New Bedford Women's Center will be called to come in.
  • Call 911 to report the incident. The police can come to the hospital to interview you while you are there. The police will not be called by the hospital without your permission.

What is Rape?

RAPE is defined under Massachusetts law by 3 elements:

  1. Penetration of any orifice (mouth, vagina, anus) by any object (finger, tongue, penis, or foreign object)
  2. Force or threatened force
  3. Against the will of the victim

Rape includes situations in which penetration is accomplished when the victim is unable to give consent, or is prevented from resisting, due to being impaired, intoxicated, drugged, underage (16 in MA), mentally challenged, unconscious, or asleep.

SEXUAL ASSAULT is more broadly defined as any sexual activity that is forced or coerced.


During the course of normal business duties and responsibilities all staff members, volunteers, interns, board members, or consultants of The Women's Center, are likely to, have access to extremely confidential information regarding clients of the agency, staff members, and/or other agency information which may be confidential in nature. This information may be contained in places such as the client's records, in the agency-wide computerized information system, or in staff's personnel files.
All staff members, volunteers, interns, board member, or consultants agree that they will hold any such information confidential, and shall not either directly or indirectly, disclose this confidential information to a third party or use it for their own purposes.

No confidential information will be released to anyone without the written informed consent of the client involved and the express consent of the Executive Director as Keeper of the Records or agency counsel.

All staff members, volunteers, interns, board members, or consultants also agree not to discuss or disclose the location of any residential program of The Women's Center to unauthorized persons at any time.

Failure to uphold confidentiality or violation of the agency's policy concerning the handling of confidential information can result in immediate termination of involvement in The Women's Center.

Massachusetts and Federal Law impose restrictions and duties upon the Keeper of the Records for The Women's Center. Staff members must immediately bring to the attention of the Executive Director any requests or demands for confidential information and must further scrupulously comply with the "Keeper of the Records" directives regarding such information.

Furthermore The Women's Center is covered under Mass General Laws 20k and 20J, and our domestic violence and sexual assault services are therefore confidential and those client records are privileged.