Address Confidentiality ProgramPennsylvania
An outgrowth of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Victim Address Confidentiality Act, the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) provides eligible victims with a legal substitute mailing address to prevent perpetrators from using public records to locate victims.
The program, administered by the Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate, is twofold. First, it provides the substitute address for victims who have moved to a new location and want to keep it unknown to their perpetrator. Second, it provides participants with a free, first-class, confidential mail-forwarding service.
To provide an alternate, confidential mailing address for sexual assault victims to lessen the chance that offenders can use public records to find them.
Making the Idea a Reality
Victims of sexual assault, stalking, and domestic violence are particularly vulnerable to continued violence and harassment. Many times crime victims attempt to escape from actual or threatened violence by establishing new addresses, only to have the perpetrator of the violence locate them. For some victims, their only option for safety may be pulling up stakes and relocating to another town, another county, or even another state.
In 2004, Governor Rendell signed the Domestic and Sexual Violence Victim Address Confidentiality Act (House Bill 1262), which led to ACP's establishment. The program is an important step toward safety and freedom for some victims who are forced to flee their home because of violence. Those who enroll in the program are provided with a legal substitute mailing address they can use whenever their residential, work, or school address is required. All first-class, certified, and registered mail is sent to a post office box in Harrisburg and ACP will forward it free of charge to the participant's actual address. By law, ACP cannot disclose a participant's actual address except in very specific and limited circumstances.
Program participants can also use the ACP substitute address whenever their residential, work, or school address is required by state and local government agencies for records such as drivers' licenses, library cards, traffic tickets, vehicle and voter registrations, employment security, school records, workers' compensation, and court petitions. This enables state and local agencies to respond to requests for public records without disclosing the location of an ACP participant. Private businesses are also encouraged to accept the ACP substitute address when doing business with participants.
Benefits to Victims
Combined with other safety strategies, ACP can help a victim start a new life. Enrollment in the program is effective for 3 years. Victims must reapply if they want to remain in the program after that time period.
Benefits to Victim Service Professionals
Victim service professionals use ACP as another tool that may be added to a victim's overall safety plan.
The Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA) has worked with Pennsylvania state agencies to ensure that they will accept substitute addresses so that domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking victims may enjoy their rights without jeopardizing their confidentiality. The Departments of Education, Transportation, State, and Public Welfare have worked with the office to ensure that substitute addresses are accepted for school enrollment, drivers' licenses and vehicle registration, voter registration, and other programs. Private companies such as banks or department stores are not legally required to accept the substitute address when a participant opens an account or asks for credit—although some do.
By of the end of December 2006, 95 Pennsylvanians had enrolled in the program.
Address Confidentiality Program