Michigan grows program to protect violence survivors

By Kyle Kaminski

January 19, 2024

BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—Four months in, dozens of survivors of various forms of violence are taking advantage of the new Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) from the state Attorney General’s Office.

The program gives participants a state-issued legal mailing address different from their actual address and allows individuals to use the designated address when an address is required for paperwork in order to keep their home safe from their perpetrators.

ACP Program Coordinator Karen Hall shared during a human trafficking roundtable last week in Detroit that since the program officially launched last September, 74 people have been enrolled as participants, with about 40 adults and about 30 children.

Back in August,  Hall and Attorney General Dana Nessel told the Advance saying that the hope was to eventually get thousands of individuals enrolled in the program, but an aggressive goal would be to have about 100 applicants by this time.

Members of the Attorney General’s Office, as well as domestic violence care providers around the state have been saying since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2021 signed into law the creation of the program that there is a lot of interest in the state from survivors of violence in access to the program.

“I’ve talked to a couple survivors who they’ve been hiding their information for years. Some of them didn’t even register to vote because they’re terrified of being found,” said Interim Executive Director of Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence Megan Hennessey.

Registering to vote, enrolling children in public school, getting a driver’s license and even paying a utilities bill can put a survivor’s address in danger of being accessible to their perpetrator.

Victim advocates from around the state have been trained by the Attorney General’s Office to guide individuals through the application process.

At Resilience, which serves Ottawa and Allegan counties, every member of the staff got certified to help individuals through the application process, Hennessey said.

However, one of the major requirements for eligibility for the program is that the applicant has to move addresses so that their new real address hasn’t been used in any state documents and can be protected.

“Before we completely understood that there was that moving component, that you needed to move, we had an absurd amount of interest from survivors who’ve been hiding from their partners for years,” Hennessey said. “Now they’re kind of faced with a decision and some of them are even considering, ‘Do I move so that I can be a part of this program?’”

Having to move, combined with a lack of affordable housing in many areas, puts survivors in a tough position to be eligible to enroll in the ACP, Hennessey said. But she remains hopeful that her organizations will be able to help people enroll in the future.

In introducing the program, Hall told the Advance in August that those trained to help people learn and enroll in the program are people well-educated in different forms of violence including not only domestic violence, but sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking, among other forms of violence. Survivors’ stories will not be discounted and those seeking help will be believed.

Hall gave an example of a young woman who was inquiring about the program, but didn’t know if her situation was “serious enough” to be eligible.

“Everybody’s story is different and we’re not going to say that just because someone’s stalking you compared to someone who has been human trafficked, that your situation is not important,” Hall told the Advance. “Our job is to make sure that they understand that they are going to be heard. They’re going to be supported through this process, and they’re going to be believed.”

For more information on the program, go to www.michigan.gov/ag/initiatives/address-confidentiality

READ MORE: Michigan launches address confidentiality program to protect survivors

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

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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