This September, the state of Ohio launched Safe at Home, an address confidentiality program that allows a person to shield their residential address from public records. The program, administered by the Secretary of State’s office, is an effort to protect victims of domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking, rape, or sexual battery from being located by his or her aggressor. This issue arose after many in the legislature heard stories from victims who were tracked by an abuser after their address was found through an online search.

By performing the simple acts of registering to vote, registering a vehicle, or even filing for divorce—all forms which require a residential address—a person’s address then becomes a public record, which anyone can access. For victims who are still at risk from their abuser, this impedes their right to live an ordinary life, as certain everyday tasks are taken away in an effort to keep safe.

So how exactly does the Safe at Home program work? Victims can apply for the program through a certified Application Assistant, an employee at an agency that serves victims of violence and who has received the program training through the Secretary of State’s office. Once enrolled, a participant is assigned a P.O. Box address, to which mail from government agencies is sent and then forwarded on to their actual address. This allows the individual to complete a variety of governmental forms without fear of disclosing their home address to an attacker searching public records.

Safe at Home was only made possible through the passage of House Bill 359 by the General Assembly. Sponsored by my colleagues Representatives Mike Duffey of Worthington and Anne Gonzales of Westerville, House Bill 359 was a bill I was proud to stand behind and support throughout its enactment. Victims of such crimes have already been through more suffering than most people can imagine, and they are the last people whose everyday lives should be obstructed because of a concern for safety.

Protecting victims is not only a priority of the Ohio House and the state, but it is also a priority of mine as I continue to serve as your voice in Columbus. The Safe at Home program will give a sense of relief to many who continue to live in fear of an aggressor, allowing them to live their lives without choosing between such rights and activities like voting and personal safety.

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