For victims of domestic violence who have courageously escaped their abuser, they must be exceedingly cautious when leaving a footprint in society for fear of being located. Keeping their home address and other personal information private has not only places an enormous burden on these victims, but it also limits their right to do simple things many take for granted.

What many individuals do not realize is that most interactions with government entities create public records. This means that simple tasks such as registering your vehicle with the BMV or registering to vote makes your address accessible to the general public. Although this is not an issue for most, for victims of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault, this can mean the difference between life and death. As someone who has seen a loved one endure the agony of this situation, I felt passionately that these victims have the opportunity to reduce the burden of anonymity, which is why Representative Duffey and I introduced House Bill 359.

House Bill 359 seeks to correct the issue by establishing an Address Confidentiality Program that victims can enroll in so their address and other personal information is excluded from public record. In working with Ohio Domestic Violence Network, and other victims’ rights advocacy groups, we were able to craft legislation that will create a beneficial and confidential program for these victims.

Under House Bill 359, victims who enroll in the Address Confidentiality Program will be assigned a program number that they can use in place of an address when requesting an absentee ballot or filling out the election ballot. The Address Confidentiality Program will be administered through the Secretary of State’s office, where they will assign each program participant a P.O. Box number that corresponds to that individual’s program number.

For all other government related correspondence, the program participant will be able to give that entity their assigned P.O. Box number. Such instances include registering a vehicle, enrolling in college courses or signing up for a library card. House Bill 359 states that the Secretary of State’s office will forward all mail from the P.O. Box to the victim’s home address daily. The real address of the program participant cannot be accessed except by a handful of authorized personnel with the Board of Elections, Secretary of State’s office and law enforcement.

Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault have gone through a time of unbearable stress, abuse, and violence. The stress should not continue even after these individuals have bravely escaped the situation. With passage of this bill, I hope that women and men in our state will be able to feel safer in their own home, and feel empowered to participate in basic civil rights.

This piece of legislation is imperative to the safety of many Ohioans who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, which is why I was proud to see it pass the Ohio House unanimously. I look forward to the future of this bill as it heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

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