For many of the 350 women who sought safety at Payson’s Time Out Shelter last year, the abuse didn’t stop once they entered the program.
Many abusers continued to harass, either in person, on the phone and through the mail.
To protect victims from this cycle of abuse, Gov. Jan Brewer signed into the law the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) last week.
The new program will allow, by December 2012, victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse or stalking to keep their residential addresses confidential on public records, with the secretary of state’s office giving them a substitute address.
Gerry Bailey, executive director at Time Out, Inc. said the program is a huge win for clients and possibly life saving.
“Abusers make frequent attempts to locate victims/survivors after the separation, even after long periods of time have elapsed since the initial separation,” Bailey said.
Oftentimes, a perpetrator seeks out the person that pressed charges, to inflict more mental or physical harm, said Secretary of State Ken Bennett.
“We must do everything we can to not only prevent domestic violence in the first place, but also do all we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Under the program, a victim’s first-class, certified or registered mail would be sent to the secretary of state’s office, which would then forward it at no charge.
Books, magazines, periodicals, packages or junk mail would not qualify for forwarding.
The program is funded by a $50 assessment levied on persons convicted of these crimes.
Washington State implemented the first ACP in 1991 with Nevada following six years later. At least one state has passed legislation creating similar programs every year since.
In Arizona, Bennett worked with the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence and state legislators to establish the ACP.
Two domestic violence survivors, Carol and Karyn, testified before the state Legislature on behalf of the bill.
With their statements, the bill passed through both houses with bi-partisan support.
“This bill was a collaborative effort from the start,” Bennett said. “Representative JD Mesnard spearheaded the legislation in the House and Senator Frank Antenori provided the leadership in the Senate. Combined with the passionate input of the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence and consent of Governor Brewer, we’ve got a new state program that benefits a vulnerable group of people who really need our help.”
The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence will work with the secretary’s office to develop implementation plans.
“Domestic violence victims need to know that Arizona is serious about protecting them from further acts of violence or intimidation,” Bennett said.
“Domestic violence has no place in our society and this program can provide an additional layer of protection from abusers.”