Program to protect the addresses of Michigan violence survivors has its first participants

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a news conference, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, outside of the Genesee County Sheriff's Office in Flint. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)

By Michigan Advance

November 6, 2023

BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—Less than two months ago, Michigan’s Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) launched and interest and support for it is strong, Program Coordinator Karen Hall told the Michigan Domestic & Sexual Violence Prevention & Treatment Board (MDSVPTB) at their meeting Friday.

Back in September, the Michigan Attorney General’s office launched the ACP, which allows survivors of different forms of violence and their families to have their physical address hidden from various public records, including their driver’s licenses and the state’s voter rolls.

Hall said in the first 50 days since the public launch of the program, there are 39 individuals who have been approved to have their addresses shielded: 23 participants and 16 approved family members.

“From the time that the governor signed this act, the phones started ringing,” Hall said, recalling Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s approval back in 2020. “This program was needed in Michigan and I’m so grateful that it’s here and that it’s available to all that need it.”

The Advance talked with survivors of domestic violence ahead of the launch of the program about how even if a person flees an abuser and finds a new residence, an abuser can use things like public schools, utility companies and voter records to find out where they live.

Nicole Beverly, a survivor of domestic violence in Michigan, told the Advance that her ex-husband was able to find her after multiple moves using public records and other means.

“You can’t be fully present and leading a joyful life when you have like this cloud of fear that’s always looming and it truly takes a huge toll on people,” Beverly, who now is an advocate for other survivors of violence said. “In terms of the address confidentiality program. … I think in a lot of ways this program says, finally after all these years, [survivors] matter.”

And Michigan is prioritizing creating tools to better serve survivors of violence, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told the Advance before the program’s launch, but with technology advancing, it’s becoming easier every day to find out where people live.

“We don’t want it to be a situation where you can’t participate in essential functions of our state government,” Nessel said. “We don’t want the state government to be the reason why you’re unsafe. We want state government to protect you, not to put you at risk.”

Hall said at the launch of the program about 150 victim advocates and application assistants at different organizations across the state had been trained and certified by the Attorney General’s Office to help with applications. On Friday, Hall noted that, to date, 301 individuals have been trained who are interested in getting certified to help with applications and the number of individuals who are certified to help has risen to 199.

So far, 31 counties across the state have certified application assistants, Hall said. The plan is to expand that number to all of Michigan’s 83 counties, as the ACP has been presented to almost 800 stakeholders in schools, at Register of Deeds offices and in law enforcement.

Program organizers are looking at other areas of expansion and improvement within the program, which operates by giving qualifying participants a designated legal mailing address to be used instead of their actual address when government agencies ask for an address. Participants are encouraged to use the designated address for all their mail, which will be rerouted by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) to their real address. 

The program notes the rerouting process will likely add a three to five day delay to all mail.

Melissa L. Pope, who serves as chief judge of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribal Court, asked Hall during the meeting how the delays have been impacting receiving notices to appear for court.

Pope said abusers can often use the court to assert power over their victims by barraging them with motions where they have to respond or risk consequences like having custody of their shared children put at risk.

Hall said that during the training for application assistants, they are made aware to tell participants to let the court know they are a part of this program and may benefit from additional methods of communication from the court. But the process has already been coordinated with DTMB, which handles the mail forwarding, and certified mail coming from court or a law office will be prioritized for speedy forwarding.

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license. 

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