April 30, 2009

Domestic Violence Victim Put at Risk when Address Disclosed to Abuser

Reading this article really upset me, but I know all too well that something like this can happen at any time to any victim, and has happened in the past from different agencies and different ways.  This is why it is so important for victims to take a crucial role in their safety and that of the kids by learning of the different ways to protect their addresses.  28 states that I know of at this time has what’s called and Address Confidentiality Program (ACP).  With this program, a victim goes into a shelter, shows her need to protect her address from an abuser (court papers, restraining orders and the such), and puts in her application for the ACP program.  It doesn’t take long to be put on the program, and the address given by this program can be used on everything.  Drivers licenses, courts, at the doctors, schools, electric and phone bills, this way there is less chance of an address being found out by an abuser.  Some states don’t have this yet, if yours does not, write to your Senator about the need for this program, and see if it may be implemented at a later time.  Also, make sure anyone that has your address understands and knows that it must be confidential because of a DV Situation.  If you have a restraining order, show it!  No matter who you are giving your address to, protect that address.  Get a PO Box for your bills, and every day use.  Get the PO Box in another town away from where you live, somewhere you can check at least once a week without too much hassle, but not close enough to where you live or where you go and shop that an abuser could find you through it if the abuser gets a hold of that information.
These are a few things I can think of at this time, and I pray that this Survivor stays safe.  It is all too easy now for abusers to find addresses through a phone bill, electric bill, or a mistake that many more steps need to be taken by any victim to protect themselves.
Please read more about the ACP Program if you are a Victim or Survivor
By Sarah Wallace - Video Available
LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- A Suffolk County, Long Island mother of three is blaming child support services for giving her confidential address to her abusive ex-husband. How did it happen and could there be others?
County officials say yes, there could be others. They say there is a bureaucratic breakdown when cases are sent over to child support services from family court, because there's no mechanism to red flag domestic violence cases. Addresses may be disclosed to ex-spouses even when they're supposed to be kept confidential. Now, a major review is underway because of what was uncovered.
It is an Eyewitness News exclusive.
"They literally, they could have killed me," Rebecca Triana said. "I mean, I still don't know if he's going show up at my door."
Triana is outraged and terrified. Several months ago, she moved her three little girls into what she thought was a safe haven of a home on Long Island, an address she says she desperately tried to keep secret from her violent ex-husband.
"I moved to make sure that he could not find us and hurt me or the children," she said. "He has choked me to unconsciousness, he has ripped the pearls from my neck, he has punched me and kicked me."
Hoover Triana, who has pleaded not guilty, has a pending case in Suffolk County for misdemeanor assault against his ex-wife. Rebecca has obtained multiple orders of protection to keep him away from her work and home and, as a precaution, her address never appears on court and other state documents. It's listed as "confidential."
"I thought I would be safe here," she said. "For nine months, I remained confidential."
It was confidential until she received a copy of a child support notice issued by Suffolk County sent to Rebecca's ex-husband. Her address in plain sight.
Eyewitness News Reporter Sarah Wallace: "What did the supervisor in the child support services office say to you?"
Rebecca: "They just apologized and told me to go to a shelter."
Wallace: "They just said, 'I'm sorry?'"
Rebecca: "Yes, 'It's our mistake.'"
Wallace: "And how does this make you feel?"
Rebecca: "Very angry, actually, very angry. Because I didn't ask anybody for help, I did this myself. I went ahead and took the opportunity to move closer to my job, gave my children a new sense of security. When we first moved here, they were like, 'Daddy can't find us here, right?' And I promised them he couldn't and then they mailed it. It's been a lot."
"After everything we've been through, the people that are supposed to help us actually gave our confidential address out," she added. "And my question is, one, how does this kind of mistake happen? And two, how many other women has this happened to?"
The Suffolk County Department of Social Services said it could not discuss Rebecca Triana's specific case, but a spokesman acknowledged a systemic breakdown.
"Many times, the system used to transfer this information does not include information about domestic violence," Roland Hampson said.
Wallace: "So when you get something from the courts, there's nothing that flags you not to give the address to a potentially abusive spouse?"
Hampson: "Many times not."
Wallace: "That's a problem."
Hampson: "That's a problem and that's why we're discussing how to deal with this with the courts."
Wallace: "But there could be other cases like this?"
Hampson: "But this is the first time we've heard of a situation like this."
Hoover Triana has honored all of the orders of protection and told Eyewitness News he would never jeopardize any future relationship with his children.
Rebecca Triana is not taking any chances. She's installed an alarm system and applied for a pistol permit.
Wallace: "You think the state should re-locate you?"
Rebecca: "Absolutely, for my children's sake, I want to be re-located to another address in the same exact town so my children's lives are not disrupted."
Wallace: "And you think the state should pay?"
Rebecca: "I definitely think the state should pay. The state made the mistake and I think there should be a program instituted that this never happens to another woman again."
Suffolk officials say they are going to put in procedures to make sure this doesn't happen again and they are working with Mrs.Triana on her housing situation.
WEB PRODUCED BY: Daniela Royes

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