ASHCROFT

Last year, more than 44,000 incidents of domestic or sexual violence were reported to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. What’s worse, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates only half of intimate partner violence is reported to police, meaning thousands of domestic violence incidents in Missouri go unreported.

Ten years ago, in an effort to provide safeguards against this abuse,

Missouri implemented an address confidentiality program for survivors. Now we look to the federal government to strengthen these protections.

Last week I had the privilege of being in Washington, D.C., for a task force of the National Association of Secretaries of State. While there, I held a press conference with U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, who introduced legislation in Congress that would require the federal government to recognize state address confidentiality programs.

Missouri is one of 36 states that administers an address confidentiality program to help survivors of abuse stay safe. Missouri’s Safe at Home program, which helps those who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, stalking and human trafficking, provides participants a confidential address, ensuring that their actual physical address is not found in public records and cannot be discovered by their abuser.

Studies show up to 75 percent of domestic violence homicides occur after the partners have separated. Protecting a survivor’s address from an abuser can undoubtedly be a matter of life and death.

The federal legislation championed by Sen. Blunt and Rep. Smith would mean the federal government would recognize state programs that protect survivors of domestic abuse. It’s an important next step in protecting the thousands of survivors, and it makes me very proud that our Missouri delegation is leading the way.

Since Safe at Home began in 2007, nearly 4,000 men, women and children have been protected through the program. There are about 1,600 participants.

The program works this way: A survivor enrolls in the program through one of more than 450 application assistants statewide. Once enrolled, the participant uses a post office box held by the secretary of state’s office as his or her physical address, which ensures the victim’s actual residential address will not become part of public records. Regular mail, certified mail and packages may be received by the Safe at Home program, and the items are then mailed directly to the participant.

Survivors and participants in Missouri’s Safe at Home program have credited it as the first peace they’ve known since their abuse — a life-changing protection. Now we look to our federal government to recognize those protections.

With passage of federal legislation supporting state address confidentiality programs, all federal agencies would be required to use the confidential address provided by states. It would provide an extra layer of protection to survivors of abuse and help ensure that their residential address can’t be found easily by their abusers.

Thank you to Sen. Blunt and Rep. Smith for introducing this bill in Congress. I encourage all Missourians to contact their representatives in Washington and express their support for “Safeguarding Addresses from Emerging at Home Act.”

MISSOURI SECRETARY OF STATE JAY ASHCROFT

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