Experiencing violence or abuse can lead to serious mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.
The fear of being confronted by a perpetrator can keep someone in an abusive situation or hinder recovery.
The Office of the Secretary of State is offering victims of domestic violence and human trafficking who are trying to evade their abusers an important program, Maryland Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program (ACP). The goal of the ACP is to help those individuals, who have relocated or are about to relocate, in an effort to keep their perpetrators from finding them. This is not a witness protection program and it is only part of an overall safety plan.
The ACP provides a substitute address for victims and a free confidential mail-forwarding service for first class mail and legal papers. The service limits an abuser’s ability to access public information which could identify the new location of their victim. In most instances, using the substitute address allows State and local agencies to respond to requests for public information without disclosing the participant’s actual address.
Those eligible for the program include:
- A person who is a victim of domestic violence and/or human trafficking;
- A parent or guardian of a minor child who fears for the safety of the minor child; or
- The guardian of a disabled person, if the guardian fears for the safety of the disabled person.
Interested parties are encouraged to apply through a trained Application Assistant in one of the domestic violence or human trafficking program offices located throughout the state. Once accepted into the program, the participant will receive a packet of information. The packet will include an authorization card which has the participant’s name, signature, substitute address, and their unique ACP number. The ACP number must be included on all of the participant’s mail. Enrollment is for four years, unless the participant cancels it, and may be renewed at the end of four years. It is the participant’s responsibility to tell State and local governments that they are in the ACP program.
Participants use a legal substitute address, PO Box 2995, Annapolis, MD 21404-2995, which has no relation to their actual residential address. Each day the ACP staff collects the mail and forwards first-class mail, registered mail, certified mail, and legal papers to participants – except magazines and packages. Although this process causes a delay, the ACP does its best to forward mail promptly.
Participants should always use the substitute address when interacting with State and local agencies. If the agencies have questions, there is a phone number of the back of the ACP card that the agency can call. There are special procedures in place that will allow participants to interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles (allowing participants to obtain a driver’s license), the State Board of Elections (allowing participants to vote), and public schools (including community colleges). Although private companies, such as department stores, do not have to accept substitute addresses, most of them do. Participants should notify the ACP immediately if they have a change of address or phone number, and they should not notify the US Post Office of any address change.