Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced a new program yesterday that will allow victims of domestic violence to conceal their whereabouts from their abusers.
The Maryland Safe At Home Address Confidentiality Program, designed to make it harder for attackers to find their victims, empowers the state to establish a substitute address for those who have suffered abuse so they can apply for driver's licenses or register to vote without revealing where they live. The service will also allow the victims to have their mail sent to the dummy address and then forwarded to their homes.
"In 2006, 70 Marylanders lost their lives as a result of incidents of domestic violence, and that does not count the thousands more who were injured," Ehrlich said. "It's something that can be dealt with, not just on the treatment end but on the prevention end."
In a news conference at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, the governor announced that the state has awarded more than $2 million in new federal grants to organizations - including Sinai - that help domestic violence victims with medical services, counseling and legal assistance. He said he has also authorized funding for the Governor's Council on Family Violence to review the state's domestic violence laws and recommend changes. Outgoing Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra O'Connor will chair the council.
The address confidentiality program was authorized in a law passed by the General Assembly this spring, which went into effect Sunday. Maryland Secretary of State Mary D. Kane, who will administer the program, said 17 other states have similar laws. Without the program, she said, victims sometimes stopped driving for fear that their attackers would find them through Department of Motor Vehicle records.
"This program does prevent perpetrators of domestic violence from using public records to find their victims," she said.
Kane said her office got its first call from a victim Monday night.
More information is available at www.marylandsos.gov or 800-633- 9657, Ext. 3875.