The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 3, 2013

Shelter address system protects abuse victims

Dan Nienaber dnienaber@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — A Mankato-based women’s shelter that provides services to sexual and domestic assault victims in six area counties has been recognized for its contributions to a system that helps victims stay off the radar of people stalking them.

Mark Ritchie, secretary of state, recognized the Committee Against Domestic Abuse, commonly known as CADA, for its work developing and promoting Safe at Home system.

Safe at Home is a statewide program that provides a substitute address and mail-forwarding service to the victims of stalking, sexual assault, domestic violence and others who fear for their safety.

The system has been used by CADA since 2008. Kristin Walters, a CADA shelter advocate, said the shelter was recognized this year for the number of people that have been signed up in the counties CADA serves, which include Blue Earth, Nicollet, Brown, Le Sueur, Sibley, Watonwan, Waseca and Faribault counties.

About 50 area residents have been enrolled in the Safe at Home program since 2008. Those residents have been assigned a post office box. Mail sent to that address is automatically forwarded to them at the address where they are living. The service provides a buffer between the victim and the potentially violent person who may be attempting to find them.

“Safe at Home allows individuals and families who have survived violence or face threat feel safe and secure,” Ritchie said. “I thank CADA and its program assistants for protecting those who know fear. Their efforts allow many south-central Minnesota residents to enjoy a more confident future.”

The program is a major adjustment for the people who use it, Walters said. Just ordering a pizza can be tricky for people using the program because they have to use a fake name to order. Otherwise they will create a link between their name and real address that could find its way into the wrong hands.

“It’s tough if someone lives in a small town, too,” Walters said. “It’s easier for people to figure out where someone lives. If they’re living with another adult, the roommate also has to be a member of the program.

“But, if people need it, Safe at Home makes it happen. I’ve never had anyone rejected from the program.”

It’s also a freeing feeling to be able to live somewhere without the constant fear that a perpetrator is going to show up at your home, Walters said. So, for many, it’s worth the change of lifestyle.

“If you’ve been running for years, I would imagine it’s a big peace of mind to be able to stay somewhere safe for once,” she said. “It’s also a big thing for children. They can start going to the same school, not have to worry about moving all the time, make friends and just enjoy being a child.”

In 2012 alone, CADA served 1,800 victims of domestic and sexual assault. In addition to the shelter, the organization provides education, counseling and advocacy services. As an example, CADA advocates can help victims obtain orders for protection and harassment restraining orders through the court system.

“The availability of Safe at Home as a safety strategy increases our ability to assist victims,” said Julie Ellefson, CADA executive director. “Our partnership in the program provides more safety planning options for our clients.”

Anyone looking for more information about Safe at Home can call CADA advocates at 507-625-8688 or the 24-hour crisis line at 800-477-0466.