At a Tuesday press conference, state officials vowed to raise awareness of support programs for victims of domestic violence.
Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz spoke yesterday afternoon at City Hall, launching a public awareness campaign about a statewide program designed to protect the identity of violence victims. The free program, Safe at Home, allows victims to conceal their address from public records to prevent possible future encounters with their abusers.
Safe at Home was created in 2004 after the severe abuse of a Southington, Conn., woman by her boyfriend that, officials later determined, could have been avoided with the existence of such a program.
With the birth of Safe at Home, Connecticut joined 15 other states, which had already established similar programs.
Although only 50 people currently participate in the program, Bysiewicz said she recognizes the far-reaching need for such protection in Connecticut.
“Last year alone more than 47,000 people in Connecticut received service at shelters for domestic violence victims,” Bysiewicz said in the press release.
Victims who have been forced to relocate out of fear of further violence are given an identification card bearing a fictitious street address, the Secretary of the State’s PO Box and a certification code. Program participants use this card as proof of address with any government entity that requires the information, including for driver’s licenses, voter registration and court records.
All state and local government entities are required to accept the address, and first-class mail sent to the address will be forwarded to the participant.
Bysiewicz said after the conference that her office already provides mail-forwarding services for some Connecticut businesses, and that the program is just an extension of that infrastructure. She further stated that her office would only forward first-class mail. In the case that a package arrives in her office, which she said rarely happens, it will be held for the recipient to pick up.
Av Harris, a spokesman for Bysiewicz, said victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are eligible to participate in the program. Barbara Bellucci, family violence victim advocate at the New Haven Courthouse, said most program participants have had their cases come through the courts, and that enrollment in the program follows only after a specific case evaluation has been made.
Victims usually enroll in the program as part of a larger safety plan created with the help of an authorized organization such as Women and Families Center in New Haven.
Bysiewicz also said there are 24-hour hotline services and local assault crisis centers available to violence victims.