And it’s not a joke. Here are three things you might not know about:
The Social Security people (www.ssa.gov) are working with domestic-violence people to get survivors new SS numbers. You need to apply in person to the SS office with proof of your identity, age, citizenship/alien status, name changes (do that ahead of time), evidence of child custody (if they’re getting new numbers too), and evidence of the abuse (papers from police, doctors, protective orders, or even a letter from the local shelter where you did in-take). It sounds as though this is a bit discretionary with the local SS office, so call ahead and find out what they want.
The Post Office: bring in your protective order and they will block anybody (even the police) from coming in to try to find your name or address.
The Violence Against Women Act protects the confidentiality of victims, among other things. Ironically a different federal act caused trouble by directing homeless shelters to thoroughly document the homeless, jot down Social Security numbers, the works. Abused women who show up at the shelters don’t always know they can refuse to put their data into the system, and still get a bed (30 states also have laws confirming that protection). This covers domestic-violence programs and shelters too.
On the down side, the recession is putting a lot of pressure on state and local governments, and since they don't want to cut out police, firemen and teachers, they are liable to cut funding for women's centers. So they need more volunteers and donations!