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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Mail Forwarding Services Protect Victims of Abuse

General Material

Fearing for their safety, victims of domestic violence who leave their abusers often need to keep their addresses and other contact information confidential. With the Internet making personal information more accessible than ever, the state of California has passed legislation that helps victims of abuse keep their addresses and other contact information out of the public domain. In adopting the California Confidential Address Program (Cal CAP), California joins eight other states that have passed legislation addressing the needs of victims of domestic violence in this age of advanced technology. Currently, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, Florida, Rhode Island, Illinois* and New York all have legislation that allows for a type of address confidentiality program, and several other states have drafted legislation that is pending approval.
Washington State's Experience

 

Washington was the first state to adopt such legislation, with the creation of its Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) in 1991. ACP helps victims of domestic violence or sexual assault keep their relocation addresses confidential when interacting with government agencies. ACP ensures that perpetrators cannot use Washington's public records to locate their victims by providing those enrolled in the program with a substitute address to use on any local or state government agency form.

 

ACP is run through the Office of the Secretary of State, and currently has 1,235 participants. More than half the participants are children, and two percent are men who are the victims of same-sex domestic violence or are fathers of sexually abused children. The Secretary of State serves as each participants' legal agent for receipt of mail and service of process.

 

Victims' mail originally is sent to the substitute address and then forwarded to the confidential address by ACP staff. To further secure a victim's privacy and safety, ACP allows participants to file voter registration and marriage licenses as confidential records. "I often tell people I have the best job in the state," said Washington State's ACP Program Manager Margaret McKinney. "It is an honor to manage a program that proves the state can come up with a relatively simple and cost-effective solution to a complex problem. The program is a model for over 15 states planning to implement their own Address Confidentiality Program."

The California Plan

The California Confidential Address Program (Cal CAP) was modeled after Washington's ACP. Cal CAP also allows victims of domestic violence who are trying to escape abuse to receive their mail at a substitute address, and keeps the location of their home, place of work and children's schools hidden from public records that may be accessed by their abusers. Through Cal CAP, the office of the California Secretary of State acts as agent for an abused woman, receiving her mail at the substitute address and forwarding it to her confidential address.

 

Cal CAP participants can provide their substitute addresses to anyone who requests their mailing address, and state and local agencies also provide the victim's substitute address when responding to requests for public records information. Address protection is granted to participants on all new vital records activity, including marriage license applications and birth certificates. Cal CAP participants are entitled to have their voter registration information kept entirely confidential.

 

Victims apply for Cal CAP through designated domestic violence or victim's assistance programs in California. To be eligible to participate, individuals must offer proof that they have filed a police report on an incident of domestic violence or sought a restraining order, or stayed at least three nights in a domestic violence shelter. Other restrictions apply, and Cal CAP will only forward certain types of mail.

 

Cal CAP legislation was drafted by California State Senator Dede Alpert (D-Coronado) and was passed in July of 1998. The program enrolled its first participant last month, and Cal CAP program administrator Shirley Washington expects the program's enrollment to grow to more than 4,000 participants within the next year.

 

For more information on the California Confidential Address Program, please contact Shirley Washington at the Confidential Address program office via phone: 877-3-Cal CAP; via mail: Cal CAP, P.O. Box 846, Sacramento, CA 95812-0846; or via fax: 916/653-7625.

 

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Family Violence Prevention Fund
383 Rhode Island Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94103-5133
Phone: (415) 252-8900
Fax: (415) 252-8991
Order Line: (415) 252-8089
Email: fund@fvpf.org
Website: http://endabuse.org

 

* Illinois does not currently have an address confidentiality program for victims of domestic violence. Althoug Illinois passed the Address Confidentiality for Victims of Domestic Violence Act, the program did not receive any funding and therefore was never activated. Source: Jennifer Welch, Women's Policy Advisor, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan