I’ve written a lot here recently about efforts to reform Maine’s child protection program and my bills that aim to make important changes to the system.
While it’s critical that we prevent abuse from happening however we can, it’s also important we support survivors of abuse so that they can live full and happy lives. That’s the aim of another bill I’m sponsoring this year, LD 1943, which would expand access to a little-known program that helps survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking stay safe. Today, I want to share some information about this bill and this program with you, in the hopes that more survivors can take advantage of the resources that are available to them.
The program is called the Address Confidentiality Program, and it helps survivors live their lives without worrying about their abusers tracking them down.
Many states have a version of this program, and in Maine it’s administered by the Secretary of State’s office. The office works to make sure that the addresses of survivors are not discoverable by abusers in public records by helping survivors manage documents such as driver’s licenses, voter registration, car registration and more. The office also receives all mail for those in the program and acts as a confidential mail forwarding service.
This way, survivors don’t need to reveal their home address in the course of their daily lives, instead, they use an address in the Secretary of State’s office, and the office sends them their mail safely and securely.
My bill would expand this program to two other important groups of survivors: Those who have been victims of human trafficking and children who have been kidnapped. I was asked to sponsor the bill by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an organization you’ve probably heard of before. NCMEC was founded by John and Revé Walsh, whose six-year-old son Adam was kidnapped from a Florida department store in 1981 and murdered. Since their family’s horrible tragedy, the Walshes have dedicated their lives to helping prevent child victimization and finding missing children. You may also know John as the host of the television program “America’s Most Wanted.”
It’s critical that victims of these crimes have access to this important safety tool as part of their overall safety plan. The bill has the support of Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, the Maine Prosecutors Association and Maine’s Attorney General, and I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to expand this program to cover more people who need it.
About 250 Mainers currently participate in the program, but not everyone who could benefit from the program even knows it exists. To learn more about the Address Confidentiality Program, visit https://www.maine.gov/sos/acp/.
Organizations that are trained in supporting survivors act as application assistants to help people apply for the program. You can find a list of all application assistants at the website above, but for our area, you can contact the Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine or Through These Doors, Cumberland County’s domestic violence resource center, for more information. You can contact SARSSM about the program by calling (207) 828-1035, visiting their website at www.sarssm.org, or using their free, private, 24-hour crisis and support helpline at 1-800-871-7741. Through These Doors can be contacted at www.throughthesedoors.org, (207) 874-1973 or on their 24-hour helpline, 1-800-537-6066.
Spreading awareness of resources like this is the best way to make sure the people who need help get it. If you have any questions about my bill or need help finding resources, please reach out to me any time. You can send me an email at email@example.com or call my office at (207) 287-1515. You can also sign up for my regular e-newsletter by visiting www.mainesenate.org. <