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(left to right: HHS Secretary John Polanowicz, EOPPS Secretary Andres, Cabral, xxx, First Lady Diane PAtrick, Liz Rogers from DHCD and the woman facing the camera in the navy blazer with the light blue shirt is Katya Fels-Smyth from the Full Frame Initiative)

(left to right: HHS Secretary John Polanowicz, EOPPS Secretary Andres, Cabral, Council Chair Sheridan Haines, First Lady Diane Patrick, DCHD’s Liz Rogers and the Full Frame Initiative’s Katya Fels-Smyth.)

On June 6, 2007,  Governor Deval Patrick signed Executive Order 486 establishing the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual and Domestic Violence with the goals of improving policies, legislation and responses. This month, the Commonwealth’s First Lady Diane Patrick thanked the Council’s Executive Director Sheridan Haines for her six years of service leading the Council.

Following the Governor’s Executive Order, Lt. Governor Tim Murray was appointed to chair  the Council and Sheridan Haines was appointed its executive director.  Over the next 6 years, through their leadership and the Administration’s commitment to the issues, the Council made significant strides in policy, practice and legislation.  Under their leadership, issues related to sexual assault and domestic violence were not issues addressed in isolation. But rather, they worked in collaboration with Council’s on housing and homelessness, military trauma and with state agencies to develop an integrated continuum of supports.

  • In October 2007,  Governor signed Executive Order #491: Zero Tolerance for sexual and domestic violence in the work place.
  • In 2008, the Council released a report with recommendations and actions steps to improve the Pediatric SANE Program, enhancing collaboration between the Department of Children and Families, hospitals  and public safety agencies.
  • In January 2009, the Council revised the Massachusetts Policy for Law Enforcement Response to Domestic Violence to set forth appropriate and effective responses to domestic violence for police departments in Massachusetts.
  • In August 2009, the Council developed a report titled, “Blueprint for Systems Change RE: Domestic Violence,” which led the way to the formation of the DV/Housing/Homeless Steering Committee and then Integrated Task Force on Housing/Homelessness and Domestic Violence.
  • In April 2010,  law on Harassment Restraining Order, giving further protection for victims of sexual assault and intimidation.
  • In November 2011, the legislature passed “An Act Relative to the Commercial Exploitation of People,” which strengthened protections for victims of human trafficking and prostitution and increasing penalties for offenders.
  • In August 2014, the legislature unanimously passed Chapter 260: An Act Relative to Domestic Violence, the Commonwealth’s most comprehensive piece of legislation on domestic violence to date.

For the past six years, Sheridan Haines has worked collaboratively with state agencies, provider networks and survivors around to develop Fatality reviews, advance services for veterans and the military, improve supports on college campuses, integrate health care reform initiatives to serve victims of sexual and domestic violence, and to enahnce accessibility to services for those who are deaf, blind, hearing impaired, disabled, immigrant, refugee or LGBTQ.

During the last year and a half, Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz and Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral have served as co-chairs of the Council. Together, they have worked to increase safety and improve systems responses to sexual and domestic violence.

The progress made since June 6, 2007 through this Council has been a direct result of a committed administration, a strong leader with the passion and drive to improve safety for victims of sexual and domestic violence in the Commonwealth, and a Council membership consisting of state agencies, legal services, community programs, higher learning institutions and most importantly the voice of survivors at the center.  The work doesn’t end with these accomplishments.  It continues forward as we continue to create a Commonwealth where we are increasing safety for survivors , offenders are held accountable, systems respond in trauma informed, helpful ways and community supports are available when needed.

Written By:


Communications Director, Executive Office of Health and Human Services


Director of Violence Prevention

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