Domestic violence victim put at risk

April 23, 2009 3:13:17 PM PDT
A Suffolk County, Long Island mother of three is blaming child support services for giving her confidential address to her abusive ex-husband. How did it happen and could there be others? County officials say yes, there could be others. They say there is a bureaucratic breakdown when cases are sent over to child support services from family court, because there's no mechanism to red flag domestic violence cases. Addresses may be disclosed to ex-spouses even when they're supposed to be kept confidential. Now, a major review is underway because of what was uncovered.

It is an Eyewitness News exclusive.

"They literally, they could have killed me," Rebecca Triana said. "I mean, I still don't know if he's going show up at my door."

Triana is outraged and terrified. Several months ago, she moved her three little girls into what she thought was a safe haven of a home on Long Island, an address she says she desperately tried to keep secret from her violent ex-husband.

"I moved to make sure that he could not find us and hurt me or the children," she said. "He has choked me to unconsciousness, he has ripped the pearls from my neck, he has punched me and kicked me."

Hoover Triana, who has pleaded not guilty, has a pending case in Suffolk County for misdemeanor assault against his ex-wife. Rebecca has obtained multiple orders of protection to keep him away from her work and home and, as a precaution, her address never appears on court and other state documents. It's listed as "confidential."

"I thought I would be safe here," she said. "For nine months, I remained confidential."

It was confidential until she received a copy of a child support notice issued by Suffolk County sent to Rebecca's ex-husband. Her address in plain sight.

Eyewitness News Reporter Sarah Wallace: "What did the supervisor in the child support services office say to you?"
Rebecca: "They just apologized and told me to go to a shelter."
Wallace: "They just said, 'I'm sorry?'"
Rebecca: "Yes, 'It's our mistake.'"
Wallace: "And how does this make you feel?"
Rebecca: "Very angry, actually, very angry. Because I didn't ask anybody for help, I did this myself. I went ahead and took the opportunity to move closer to my job, gave my children a new sense of security. When we first moved here, they were like, 'Daddy can't find us here, right?' And I promised them he couldn't and then they mailed it. It's been a lot."

"After everything we've been through, the people that are supposed to help us actually gave our confidential address out," she added. "And my question is, one, how does this kind of mistake happen? And two, how many other women has this happened to?"

The Suffolk County Department of Social Services said it could not discuss Rebecca Triana's specific case, but a spokesman acknowledged a systemic breakdown.

"Many times, the system used to transfer this information does not include information about domestic violence," Roland Hampson said.

Wallace: "So when you get something from the courts, there's nothing that flags you not to give the address to a potentially abusive spouse?"
Hampson: "Many times not."
Wallace: "That's a problem."
Hampson: "That's a problem and that's why we're discussing how to deal with this with the courts."
Wallace: "But there could be other cases like this?"
Hampson: "But this is the first time we've heard of a situation like this."

Hoover Triana has honored all of the orders of protection and told Eyewitness News he would never jeopardize any future relationship with his children.

Rebecca Triana is not taking any chances. She's installed an alarm system and applied for a pistol permit.

Wallace: "You think the state should re-locate you?"
Rebecca: "Absolutely, for my children's sake, I want to be re-located to another address in the same exact town so my children's lives are not disrupted."
Wallace: "And you think the state should pay?"
Rebecca: "I definitely think the state should pay. The state made the mistake and I think there should be a program instituted that this never happens to another woman again."

Suffolk officials say they are going to put in procedures to make sure this doesn't happen again and they are working with Mrs.Triana on her housing situation.

WEB PRODUCED BY: Daniela Royes