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Shelter Sues PacBell Over Address Disclosure

May 04, 2000

SAN FERNANDO VALLEY — A social services agency that runs a shelter for battered women has sued Pacific Bell, alleging that the company printed the shelter's confidential address in its July 1999 White Pages telephone book.

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles was forced to close the shelter and move its residents, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The agency discovered the problem in January, when a woman appeared at the shelter looking for her daughter-in law, said Tracy Hutchinson, director of the agency's Valley-based Family Violence Project.

"That's considered a threat, because batterers often use their family members to try and find the women," she said.

The visitor told shelter staff she found the address in the phone book. Hutchinson said the 30-bed shelter had told the phone company not to list its address or even to print it on bills, which were sent to an office instead.

"We were horrified, because it's in every phone book we saw," she said. "411 was even giving it out."

Steve Getzug, a spokesman for Pacific Bell, said the company is investigating the matter.

"Clearly, if a customer asks us not to publish information, it's certainly our intent to not to publish it," he said.

Concerned about the security breach, the shelter immediately sent the 11 women and children living there at the time to other agencies and relocated to a new site, Hutchinson said.

The locations of domestic violence shelters are often kept secret to protect their residents. The Jewish Family Service's shelter provides 30-day stays for battered women and their children, as well as counseling, medical attention, and help securing restraining orders against abusers.

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