SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Recently proposed legislation aims at creating more protection for victims of domestic violence.
U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, have introduced the Safeguarding Addresses from Emerging, or SAFE, at Home Act. The main goal is to keep victims’ home address confidential even at the federal level.
“It just makes it that much more difficult for the abuser to find out where they live,” said Lisa Farmer, executive director at Harmony House.
She says Missouri is one of 36 states with a Safe At Home program that gives victims of domestic violence, rape, stalking and human trafficking a substitute address.
“All of their mail goes to that address, and then that program forwards their mail to their actual physical address,” Farmer said.
But federal agencies and federal courts don’t accept it.
“So, the person would be forced to provide their real address,” said Farmer.
Senator Roy Blunt says more needs to be done.
“While a law has been set up to protect them, they don’t have, at this point, all the protection that they feel like they should have. And that we feel like they should have,” Senator Blunt said.
With the SAFE at Home Act, Representative Jason Smith, R-Salem, says the federal government would have to recognize the substitute address.
“Victims of domestic violence privacy is their privacy, it’s not the government’s privacy,” Rep. Smith said.
“In the digital age, the more times or the more places you give out your address, the more likely it’s going to be that somebody that’s looking for you is going to be able to find you,” Farmer said.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft says the Act does not create a new federal program, but simply allows the 36 states to use their own SAFE At Home programs with federal agencies.
“It does not require the federal government to spend a dime,” he said. “This is not a place to hide from the government, and there are ways in all of our programs for law enforcement, if they need to get to data, that can be done.”
Advocates say its one more layer of protection that could save lives.
“It just takes one time for an address to be made public for there to be a bad outcome,” Farmer said.