Program Allows Domestic Violence Survivors To Shield True Address From Public Records
Officials in Massachusetts are trying to spread the word about a program that can help women break away from an abusive relationship before it escalates to deadly violence.
The Address Confidentiality Program allows people who have relocated because of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to use a confidential address as their legal residence, reducing the risk that an abuser can track down their whereabouts.
" It is a life-saving issue," said Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin, whose office administers the program. He said it has served 1,500 Massachusetts residents since its inception a decade ago.
" We provide the confidentiality of where they are while making sure they get all their mail, child-support payments and opportunity to seek new employment," explained Galvin.
Galvin said participation rates in the western Massachusetts counties have been lower in recent years despite above average rates of domestic violence-related homicides.
" People are not aware of the program," said Galvin. He said participation rates have now improved because of efforts to raise awareness about it.
In Hampden County, use of the program soared by 162 percent from a year ago after District Attorney Anthony Gulluni had three members of his staff trained to certify eligibility.
Gulluni said his office is currently prosecuting seven domestic violence-related murders – 30 percent of the pending homicide cases.
"This domestic violence cycle is vicious," said Gulluni. " The Address Confidentialy Program is a great tool to interupt that cycle."
Elizabeth Dineen, Executive Director of the YWCA of Western Massachusetts, which operates a shelter for domestic violence victims, said greater cooperation between advocacy organizations and the DA’s office has helped promote the address protection program.
"One of the fears that are continually expressed by women who come to the YWCA is that they can never get away from the person who is their abuser," said Dineen. "This allows survivors to start over."
Galvin said he has lobbied for money in the state budget to help domestic violence victims with relocation expenses.
People who want to apply for the Address Confidentiality Program can call 1-866-SAFE-ADD.