New program offers domestic abuse survivors extra security

New program offers domestic abuse...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A new program in our area is making a big difference for survivors and victims of domestic violence.

'Safe At Home' was signed into law during the last legislative session. It provides victims and survivors of domestic abuse with a substitute legal mailing address.

This allows survivors to register with public utility companies, schools and more by keeping their new residential address confidential. 

According to national statistics, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S.

In 2016, New Horizons in La Crosse helped nearly 200 women and men seek safety and shelter.

But this statewide program will have a big local impact.

"At times it can be extremely paralyzing concerned about that your abuser or your stalker will continue to find you and to do harm and so this is just one more tool to help give them a little bit of sense of safety," said Jennifer Shilling, state senate minority leader.

Through the Department of Justice, victims receive the same general mailing address, mail is then sent to the Safe At Home program, and from there the program sends the mail to each confidential address.

New Horizons' executive director says the program is a necessary addition to local efforts.

"It's going to keep all victims of abuse throughout the state of Wisconsin who utilize the Safe At  Home program safer and it'll just be part of that extension of services, not only that we can provide here but it will carry into their personal life also," said Ann Kappauf.

Survivors can use the substitute address when applying for driver's licenses and registering for public institutions.

They can also use that address for most court and government documentation.

Shilling, who helped author this new legislation, says it's a step in the right direction.

"Will help heighten a sense of security and just take one more concern off of women's plates about their perpetrator, their attacker, their abuser being able to locate them."

The efforts are part of an address confidentiality program which already exists in 34 states.

Wisconsin law currently only protects the addresses of domestic violence survivors when they register to vote.

The Safe At Home program is free and it's good for five years after signing up.

To sign up, people can call their local domestic abuse shelter or go through the Department of Justice website.

Safe At Home will officially begin April 1.


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