Domestic Violence Programs

There are over 35 domestic violence programs across Massachusetts. The goal of a DV program is to provide a free and safe place for survivors and their children to find support, receive counseling, escape the violence and begin to recover.

  • Information on Massachusetts domestic violence services can be found at
  • Most programs provide free counseling, support services, and advocacy for survivors.
  • Many programs have shelters where survivors can stay for between 14 and 90 days, while making decisions and trying to locate longer-term safe housing.

Shelters generally operate differently from homeless shelters because of the safety risks to the residents.

  • They are usually located in undisclosed locations and have rules that residents must follow in an effort to maximize everyone's safety.
  • These rules may include not telling people where they are, taking a leave of absence from their jobs, and having no contact with their abuser.
  • Additionally, some shelter programs will not take a family or individual from the communities that they serve, although they will assist them with locating space in another shelter. The reason for this is that it is easy for a batterer to track a survivor to the local program.

Unfortunately, shelter beds are not always available. Shelters may be full or, for various reasons, unable to meet the needs of the family. For example:

  • Some will not allow a woman to bring a son over the age of 12;
  • Some will not accept adult male survivors of domestic violence;
  • Some are not equipped to accommodate certain physical, medical, linguistic, cultural or dietary needs. Increasingly, there are specialized programs to meet these unique needs.

If a shelter is unavailable for any reason, it is important for you to identify with the person another place where she or he may seek safety.

  • In some circumstances the survivor may feel safe temporarily staying with family, friends or others.
  • Some local hospitals may offer a safe-bed to women to stay during an emergency.
  • Some survivors may be able to afford to stay in a hotel/motel for a night or two.
  • Additionally, there are short-term residential programs called safe homes that are discussed in more detail below.
  • Shelter bed availability changes from day to day. Sometimes if an alternate safe place can be found for a night or two, space will open up in a shelter.
  • It is possible for a family or individual to seek shelter outside of the state when the shelters within Massachusetts are full. The National Hotline can provide a referral to a program outside of Massachusetts. Some survivors may prefer to leave the state as a way to feel safer.

Massachusetts has established some safe home programs. These are similar to shelter programs, but are very short term-usually providing a place to stay for only a few days. Some of the safe home programs are designed to meet the needs of those survivors that the shelter programs cannot accommodate. A safe home program will work with the family or individual to find another safe place to go at the end of their stay. Similar to shelters, safe home programs will provide some support services to survivors, including crisis intervention, case management, and advocacy. Like shelter programs, safe home programs can be accessed through all the hotlines and are typically free.