June 15, 2009 in City, Idaho
Abuse victims slow to block addresses
CALDWELL, Idaho— So far a dozen Idaho residents have taken advantage of a new law allowing victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault to keep their addresses out of public records, and officials are hoping more will sign up for the program.
The Idaho Secretary of State’s address Confidentiality Program, which began last July, allows people to use a post office box instead of a street address to obtain a driver’s license, voter registration and other government services. The goal is to prevent would-be assailants from using public records to track their victims down.
But lack of public awareness and program restrictions could be hampering the program, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported. No clients with the Valley Crisis Center in Nampa, a domestic violence shelter, have used the program.
Victims must have a protective order or a prosecutor’s certificate showing they are in danger to participate in the program.
“A lot of other states don’t have that requirement,” Valley Crisis Center program services director Charlene Wright said. “Not everyone who needs to have address confidentiality has a protection order. So those restrictions really limit the number of people who will be able to use it.”
Luann Dettman, executive director for The Idaho Council on Domestic Violence, said the restrictions may be holding the program back “a little bit.”
But Lisa Mason, the part-time coordinator of the program, said she did not know of any victims who felt they needed the program who couldn’t participate because of its requirements.
“Our biggest challenge so far is just getting the word out,” Mason said. “We feel like there are so many people that could benefit from this program that just don’t know it’s there.”
Mason said budget cuts have left her with limited resources to increase public awareness about the program, although brochures have been distributed to many domestic violence shelters in the state and presentations and training are available.
The program needs time for people to find out about it, Mason said.
“In speaking with other states, their first couple of years were pretty slow,” Mason said. “I feel like it’s pretty normal.”
Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, sponsored the law. He said it was patterned after a similar program in Washington state that now has 3,000 participants after operating for more than 15 years.
“(Those restrictions) have not been an inhibitor at all” in Washington, Trail said.
Some Idahoans who do participate in the program are in fear for their lives, Mason said.
“If we can save one person it is worthwhile,” Mason said.
Twenty-eight other states have full address confidentiality programs, Mason said.