Starting on July 1 of this year, the state of California will begin offering free post office boxes to qualifying women, men and children who are survivors of domestic violence.
The program, which was modeled on a similar program in Washington state, is expected to cost around $519,000 in its first year. Individuals who can document violent attacks and who are willing to sign a release stating that they fear for their safety will be granted free post office boxes. Secretary of State employees will check mail from the boxes each day and then forward the mail to the individuals’ confidential addresses.
In addition, voter’s registration records and public records will be kept confidential for program participants. Under the new program, these records will remain private unless opened by court order.
Leah Aldridge of the Los Angeles Commission on Assault Against Women noted that many women are forced to “start all over again” when fleeing a violent spouse or former boyfriend and live in constant fear that their abuse will discover their whereabouts through electronic or paper records. “They cannot talk to their families or friends. They cannot go to the grocery store and use an ATM card. They’re not able to have a phone. They cannot go back to where they worshipped.” Computer technology has made it even more difficult for domestic violence survivors to hide from their abusers.
Other states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, and Nevada, have also developed programs designed to help abuse survivors hide from abusers.