Diamond bill to support survivors of human trafficking, childhood kidnapping signed into law by Gov. Mills
AUGUSTA — On Thursday, April 21, Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill from Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham. LD 1943, “An Act To Expand the Address Confidentiality Program to Victims of Certain Human Trafficking Crimes,” helps survivors of human trafficking and childhood kidnapping stay safe from their abusers by shielding their addresses in public databases.
“The Address Confidentiality Program can give survivors the freedom and confidence to live their lives without fear that their abuser will find their address and harm them again,” said Sen. Diamond. “Just as survivors of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault benefit from this program, survivors of human trafficking and childhood abduction need all the tools and support we can offer them to stay safe. While we should always be looking to prevent abuse however we can, it’s also important we support survivors of abuse so that they can live full and happy lives. I hope that this new law will help expand awareness about this little-known program to everyone who is eligible and could benefit by participating.”
As amended, LD 1943 expands the state’s Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) to survivors of human trafficking and childhood kidnapping. Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are currently eligible for the ACP, which is administered by Maine’s Secretary of State. The program helps survivors shield their addresses in public databases so that they are not found and further targeted by their abusers by providing participants with a designated address. The Secretary of State’s office also acts as a confidential mail forwarding service for participants. About 250 Mainers currently participate in the program.
“ACP allows both state and local agencies and the courts to contribute to the safety of domestic violence, sexual assault, [and] stalking survivors. If this bill passes, those who have experienced human trafficking and minor victims of kidnapping will be covered under law. This will deny abusers the opportunity to use public records as a means to locate them,” said Secretary of State Shenna Bellows in testimony supporting the bill.
“Very similar to victims of domestic violence, a power and control dynamic exists between those who were trafficked and the traffickers. Numerous survivors have told me that due to their traumatic experiences, they continue to see the faces of the perpetrators within their communities and daily life, even if the perpetrators are in prison. Many have had their traffickers track them down and contact them years later. This legislation is an important part in the healing process for survivors and can provide them protections from future contacts, because the confidentiality becomes an additional mechanism for safety and security,” wrote Cumberland County District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck in testimony supporting LD 1943, on behalf of the Maine Prosecutors Association and the Office of the Attorney General.
Sen. Diamond sponsored the bill at the request of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Founded by John and Revé Walsh after the 1981 kidnapping and murder of their six-year-old son Adam, NCMEC’s mission is to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent child victimization.
Mainers can learn more about the Address Confidentiality Program, including how to apply, by visiting https://www.maine.gov/sos/acp/.
As an emergency measure, LD 1943 went into effect immediately upon being signed into law.