New York state has a free program that protects the location information of domestic violence survivors.
It’s called the Address Confidentiality Program, where the state provides individuals with a post office box in order to keep their physical address hidden for their safety. Starting this week, any victim of domestic violence, stalking, sexual offenses or human trafficking can apply online.
Willow Domestic Violence Center's Hannah Sonner said that Willow previously assisted individuals applying to the program by mailing in or faxing the application on their behalf.
"Now it's instant,” said Sonnor. “You can just go online and just fill out the application. Which is especially helpful with COVID, thinking about ways to give survivors access to resources in a faster way.”
The program protects victims who are transitioning out of abusive situations by working as an additional buffer between them and their abusers. All of the individual’s mail is re-routed to the post office box, and they are given a special identification card that can be used when filling out public documents. The program also allows New York state to accept any legal notices on the individual’s behalf, free of charge.
Sonnor said many survivors seek safety from their abusers by relocating and having a safe confidential address allows victims to live without fear.
“They say in order for me to be safe I have to go somewhere where they don’t know where I am ... and this is a way to keep their location secure, especially when they have shared ties, most often with children,” said Sonnor.
Since the start of the pandemic, Sonner said calls to Willow’s domestic violence hotline have increased and she credits the program for saving the lives of many people.
“To have a program that keeps their address confidential that they don’t have to pay for and is now easy to apply for online, can often make the decision to leave much easier and faster,” Sonnor said.
Anyone with questions about the program or in need of support can call Willow’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline at 222-SAFE.