Governor Dean Signs Address Confidentiality Bill Into Law
Calling it "an important step to protect Vermont's victims of domestic violence, rape and stalking who live in fear of their abusers," Governor Dean signed a bill that will permit Secretary of State Deb Markowitz to start up a Safe at Home Address Confidentiality program. Through the Safe at Home program Vermont will join a growing number of states emerging to confront the epidemic of domestic violence in a unique way that affords address confidentiality to its victims.
Safe At Homeis the NEW Vermont Address Confidentiality Program that will be administered by the Secretary of State. It is a unique, no cost mail forwarding service designed to help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking who have recently moved or are planning to relocate in the near future to a safe place unknown to their abusers. Markowitz said "Safe at Home will help those who participate in the program in keeping their home, work, or school address confidential by providing them with a substitute address. It is our hope that, once up and running, this program will give these especially vulnerable Vermonters an extra layer of security as part of an over all safety plan."
The Address Confidentiality legislation is modeled after a similar program developed by Washington State's Secretary of State. The Vermont program was developed by a Task Force, convened by Secretary Markowitz and Judith Sutphen, the Executive Director of the Governor's Commission on Women.
Sutphen said , "the Network on Domestic Violence deserves a lot of credit for helping us to craft proposed legislation that will work to protect Vermont's Victims of Domestic Violence, Rape and Stalking."
The Safe at Home program has three components:
Participants in the Safe at Home program will be able to use the Secretary of State's Office as their legal address.
Under the Safe At Home program, participants will designate the Secretary of State as his/her agent for service of process and mail receipt. As their agent, the Secretary of State's office will accept and forward legal documents, first- class and certified mail and mail from government agencies to their new, confidential, location.
Under the Safe at Home program the Secretary of State's Office will work with state and local agencies throughout the state to ensure address protection to program participants. These agencies will be free to respond to requests for public records information without disclosing the location of program participants.
Markowitz said, "One of the biggest dangers to victims who move to escape an abuser is that they will be tracked down through our public records system. I am proud that the hard work of our task force and the good work of the Government Operation Committees of both the house and the senate resulted in legislation that will have a positive impact on the lives of Vermont's women and children - many of whom have nowhere else to turn."
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