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Effort to Shield Addresses of Abuse Victims in Ohio

An address confidentiality bill could protect survivors of abuse from being harassed or stalked. (Pixabay)
An address confidentiality bill could protect survivors of abuse from being harassed or stalked. (Pixabay)
May 6, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A bill under consideration at the Statehouse could help ease some of the fears felt by survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

House Bill 359 would establish a voluntary program that would create a confidential address for them which, according to Nancy Neylon, executive director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, could be used for work, school, voting and other public services.

"This is for that group of survivors who in particular feel a very reasonable but very real continued fear from their perpetrators," she said, "after they've left the situation and their perpetrators have continued to stalk them, harass them, threaten them, even perhaps hurt them in some other way."

According to the Secretary of State's Office, there are more than 60,000 victims of domestic violence in Ohio each year. The program would be funded by offender fees and would cost an estimated $40,000 a year. The legislation passed the House and currently is being reviewed by a Senate committee.

Neylon said the program even could help victims who are struggling to leave an abusive situation.

"Too often, people think, 'Why doesn't she just leave? Why doesn't she get out of the situation?' and it's important to understand that it's not always possible," she said, "and this is one of the solutions - we hope - to that problem."

Thirty-eight other states have similar programs, and Neylon said it took some time to get momentum building in Ohio. She said one of the biggest obstacles was the voting portion of the bill.

"Election law is something that's very specialized, and so you have to know what that is in order to make a bill that is going to comply with that law," she said. "That has taken some time to work through some of those issues, but the secretary of state has been very on board with this and very supportive of the program."

If passed, Secretary of State Jon Husted has said the program could be in place by the November election.

Details of the bill are online at legislature.ohio.gov.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH