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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, March 8, 2019

Tennessee secretary of state launching program for victims of domestic violence




Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, members of the General Assembly and advocates for domestic violence victims are launching the Tennessee Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program. More than 35 other states offer similar domestic violence safety programs.

Safe at Home aims to protect Tennessee victims of domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, stalking and other related crimes from their abusers by keeping their address concealed from public records. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 18 of the 84 domestic violence-related murder victims in Tennessee in 2017 were repeat victims or had reported domestic abuse before their deaths.

“Our goal is to shine a bright light on the problem of domestic violence in our state and help protect those Tennesseans who have been victimized from becoming victims again,” Hargett says. “Safe at Home provides victims and their families with a tool to help heal from their abuse, begin new lives and finally feel a sense of security in their communities.”

Under current Tennessee law, most state or local government records are considered public and available for public review. These public records include identifying documents like voter registration and other documents and information, making it easy for abusers to track and find their victims.

Legislation passed in 2018 created the Safe at Home program and allows for participants of the program to be concealed from public records in order to shield survivors and victims from the ongoing threat of domestic violence. Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Rep. Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville) sponsored the legislation.

Participants in the program will be provided a government-managed substitute address to be used as their official mailing address on all government documents. The address may be used for both victims and their children. Safe at Home forwards the mail received to program participants and keeps their personal address confidential.

Once enrolled, the participant can provide the substitute address to all government entities in Tennessee, with very limited exceptions. Participants may also request that other nongovernmental entities, such as schools, employers and other private businesses, use this address as well.

There is no cost to participate in the program, but participants must complete an application with the assistance of a certified application assistant.

The TBI 2017 report on domestic violence found 77,846 domestic violence offenses reported to police statewide, including 935 cases of stalking and more than 11,400 reports of aggravated assaults. Known domestic violence situations resulted in 81 murder victims in Tennessee during 2017.

More about Safe at Home can be found at www.sos.tn.gov/safeathome.

Source: Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett