- What is the Address Confidentiality Program?
The Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) provides an important service to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
The program has two basic parts. First, the ACP provides a substitute address for participants who have moved to a new location unknown to their perpetrator. The second part of the program provides participants with a free first-class confidential mail forwarding service .
The ACP is not for everyone. A victim service professional from a domestic violence, sexual assault or a victim service program can help determine if the ACP is right for the victim as part of their safety plan.
- Who is eligible?
Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and persons who live in the same household as the victim may apply to participate in the ACP. The ACP will determine if the applicant meets the requirements for participation. Applicants should have moved or be moving to a new address that is unknown to the perpetrator.
- How does the program work?
The ACP is only one small piece of an overall safety plan. By itself, the ACP cannot keep a person safe. Combined with other safety strategies, the ACP can help a participant start a new life.
This ACP is only effective if the participant has recently moved and the perpetrator does not know the new address.
If the participant creates government records that document where they live, using a substitute address will not protect them from being found. A participant needs to live in a confidential location for the ACP substitute address to be most effective.
State and local agencies are required by law to use the substitute address provided on the ACP authorization card. If they have questions about the use of the substitute address, ask them to call the ACP. The number is on the back of all ACP authorization cards.
- How does someone apply to participate in the ACP?
Applicants do not apply directly to the ACP. Application is made in person at a local domestic violence, sexual assault or victim service program located throughout the state. A parent or guardian can apply to the program on behalf of a minor or individual who is incapacitated. The application process involves meeting with a victim service professional who can help an applicant determine whether the ACP should be a part of the participant’s overall safety plan, explain the program services, explain the participant’s responsibilities and assist with the completion of the application materials. The applicant will mail the completed application to the ACP.
- What happens after someone is accepted into the ACP?
Once accepted into the ACP, the participant will receive a packet of program information, which includes an ACP authorization card. The ACP card includes the participant’s name, signature, and their substitute address including their ACP #. Their substitute address is to be used as their private mailing address. It is the participant’s responsibility to tell state and local government agencies that they are a participant in the ACP. The participant’s enrollment will be effective for 3 years unless otherwise cancelled by the participant or the ACP before the expiration date.
- How is the substitute address used?
The substitute address used by a participant is not related to their actual address. The address may be used by the participant for all first-class mail, registered and certified mail. The ACP does not forward magazines, packages or junk mail. The participant may also use the substitute address on all of their address return labels.
An ACP participant should use the ACP substitute address every time they interact with state and local government agencies. The participant is safer when very few people know where they actually live. If the participant provides the state or local government their actual address, there is no guarantee it will remain confidential. It is important to understand that once enrolled in ACP, first class mail will be delayed 5-7 days from the date it was sent.
Private companies such as department stores, utility companies, insurance companies and banks do not have to accept the substitute address. But many businesses are willing to do so. The participant should not hesitate to ask them to send all their mail to their ACP address.
- What are the ACP participant’s responsibilities?
The ACP address is shared by all other ACP participants. Each participant is assigned a personal ACP #. The personal ACP # is what separates the participant from all the other ACP participants. The ACP participant must inform everyone who sends mail to them to use their ACP# when using the ACP address.
Should a participant move or change their name, they need to call ACP as soon as possible. The participant may be cancelled from the program if they fail to notify ACP within 5 days of a change.
Upon enrollment, an ACP participant should notify the United States Postal Service to have mail forwarded from their old address to the ACP substitute address. This is the only time an ACP participant should notify the United States Postal Service of their address change.
If a participant changes their address/moves after being enrolled in ACP, they DO NOT notify the United States Postal Service of a change in their address. This will change the address of all the other participant’s in the program.
When a participant signs the ACP application they designate OVA as their representative to receive mail and legal documents for them. A participant cannot avoid their legal responsibilities simply by refusing to accept mail the ACP forwards to them. Although ACP signs for certified documents, the participant is still responsible for any legal response or actions that may need to take place.
ACP enrollment is effective for 3 years. A program participant must reapply if they wish to continue in the program.
- Will an ACP participant’s address ever be disclosed?
Once enrolled into ACP, 23 Pa. C.S.A. § 6701 et seq mandates a participant’s residential, work, and/or actual address to be confidential. Only under special circumstances can a participant‘s actual address be disclosed. These situations include:
- A state or local government agency requesting a waiver applies to the ACP to release a participant’s actual address.
- A court order directs OVA to release the participant’s address.
- In an extreme case of an emergency where a participant and/or family members are in danger.
- A participant is under investigation by law enforcement.
A state and local government agency may request a waiver for a participant’s actual address when the agency has an administrative need for the actual address and cannot meet its statutory or administrative obligations without disclosure of the participant’s actual address.
- Can an ACP participant be cancelled from the program?
The ACP may cancel a program participant’s eligibility if the participant:
- Provides false or incorrect information on their application to the ACP.
- Fails to notify the ACP of a change in address within five (5) days.
- Fails to notify the ACP of a name change within five (5) days.
- Mail is returned to ACP as non-deliverable.
- Fails to renew their application prior to the expiration date.
- No longer wants to be in the program; cancels their participation in the program.
If a participant is cancelled from ACP, they may reapply to the program by completing a new application.
- Can other household members participate in the ACP?
Yes, a person who is a member of the same household as the program participant may also use the ACP program. An adult cohabitant or child over age 18 must apply separately for ACP participant.
- What kind of mail is forwarded?
All first-class mail, registered and certified mail is forwarded to participants. Magazines, packages and junk mail are not forwarded.
- How is the personal ACP# used?
The personal ACP# must be on all mail sent to the ACP participant. The personal ACP# is what separates each participant’s mail from the mail of all other participants. Everyone who sends mail to an ACP participant must be told to use the personal ACP# following the participant’s name.