By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia
When most people think of the Arizona Secretary of State they think of elections or maybe the business community.
Domestic violence certainly isn’t the first thing that comes to one’s mind.
But for Secretary Michele Reagan, domestic violence education and awareness is important.
Ms. Reagan has been an advocate for domestic violence issues for a number of years, and is currently working with the state’s court system to encourage greater awareness of the Arizona Address Confidentiality Program, which helps victims of domestic violence, sexual offenses, and/or stalking from being located by the perpetrator through public records. She said the program provides a substitute address and confidential mail forwarding services to individuals and families across Arizona.
About 75 percent of abused women who are murdered are killed after they leave their partners, and the program tries to keep that from happening, she said.
“Victims are most in danger when they have left or about to leave an abusive relationship,” Ms. Reagan said. “ACP programs are a part of an ongoing safety plan, to help reduce that statistic.”
The very first ACP program started in 1991 in Washington state when it was found that victims of domestic violence who were being located through public records. But, Ms. Reagan said, by providing victims a substitute address, the program can protect vulnerable populations from the ongoing threat or actual physical harm.
In June 2012, Arizona became the 27th state to implement the program, established within the Secretary of State’s office.
Participants enrolled in the program use a substitute address instead of their real address. The substitute address is to be used instead of a person’s home, work or school address, and state and local government agencies must accept the substitute address issued by the Secretary of State. The ACP accepts all First Class, registered, certified and election mail for participants and forwards them to her or his real address at no cost.
Ms. Reagan said that since the law was established, more than 2,200 women, men and children have used the program as part of their ongoing safety plan and 90 percent of those active in the program report an increased knowledge of their safety and feel their safety has improved.
Laura Horsley, executive director of Eve’s Place, said the Secretary of State’s program is one of the many ways to protect victims of domestic violence. Additionally, she recommends victims change their phone numbers, screen their calls, save and document all contacts, messages, injuries or other incidents involving the batterer.
Eve’s Place supports victims of domestic, sexual and teen dating abuse by increasing access to services through mobile advocacy and maintaining their privacy.
Ms. Horsley said staff at Eve’s Place work with the Secretary of State’s office and submits client’s applications for the ACP.
“It allows women and men to start over and gives them the safety they need,” she said.
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
If you have left the relationship:
- Change your phone number.
- Screen calls.
- Save and document all contacts, messages, injuries or other incidents involving the batterer.
- Change locks, if the batterer has a key. Avoid staying alone.
- Plan how to get away if confronted by an abusive partner.
- If you have to meet your partner, do it in a public place.
- Vary your routine.
- Notify school and work contacts.
- Call a shelter for battered women.