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Safe At Home Bill Could Alleviate Safety Concerns For Assault Victims

Staff workers at Project Woman. Jeff Smith (right), Nina Naufahu, Joy Folden (back), and Janet Thomas (left).
Project Woman
Staff workers at Project Woman. Jeff Smith (right), Nina Naufahu, Joy Folden (back), and Janet Thomas (left).

A bill moving through the Ohio senate would allow victims of violent crimes to register to vote anonymously, but the bill could do much more than that, according to some.

Jon Husted is Ohio's 53rd Secretary of State
Credit www.sos.state.oh.us
Jon Husted is Ohio's 53rd Secretary of State

Secretary of State Jon Husted’s “Safe at Home” initiative would let victims of domestic and sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes apply for a confidential address through his office. He says many victims don’t register to vote because their address becomes public record.

“In many cases these individuals have reason to fear someone who wants to do them harm,” he says. “Our ‘Safe at Home’ initiative will allow us to shield legitimate victims and allow us to make sure they can register to vote, preserve that right, without exposing themselves to the threat of harm.”

Through the program, those who apply for the confidential status would be issued a state sanctioned P.O. box at no cost, keeping their home address confidential and out of public records.

Laura Baxter with Project Woman.
Credit Project Woman
Laura Baxter with Project Woman.

Thirty-six Ohio county prosecutors have backed the idea, as have a group of bi-partisan legislators in the Ohio House and Senate.

Several victim advocate groups are also backing the effort. Laura Baxter with Project Woman of Springfield and Clark County says her organization is already helping clients with home address privacy issues, and a statewide program would be welcome.

“We’ve been trying to do that so that [victims] can access local benefits including transportation services, have a place where their job applications can be routed to and from, and just general things that we would take for granted without their abuser finding out where they’ve just moved to,” she says.

It’s not clear how many people statewide the “Safe at Home” initiative would benefit but the number could be substantial. Baxter says almost 1400 individuals have accessed their services in the last year and several hundred have spent time in their emergency shelter.

The the "Safe at Home" bill is currently pending in the Ohio Senate.