New MN Law Enhances Confidentiality Program for Abuse Victims
Wednesday, August 3, 2022
A new Minnesota law has gone into effect this week involving a program that keeps address information confidential for victims of domestic abuse.
Minnesota's Safe at Home initiative assigns participants a post office box to use as their legal address, to help as they escape an abusive situation or a stalker. It also details how state and local agencies have to respond to data requests without disclosing the person's location. Among the changes is clarification of the requirement that a landlord cannot display a person's name who's in the Safe at Home program.
Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, a main sponsor of the bill, said no major issues prompted the updates, but they're still important.
"As technology changes, too," she said, "that we're sort of making sure that what is in statute matches with the reality of what it's like to live as someone who lives in fear for their safety."
Another change expands the definition of "real property records" that are prohibited from disclosure. Becker-Finn said they had long pushed for these updates, but general political gridlock proved to be an obstacle.
In broader efforts to help abuse and assault victims, Becker-Finn said she would like to see agencies be more responsive and sensitive to those reporting an incident. In many communities, she said, the way survivors are treated can make it harder for them to even file a report.
"I think we do have a ways to go when it comes to that side of things and actually holding people accountable," she said.
Advocacy groups have said Minnesota also must take steps such as committing to testing its backlog of rape kits to better support victims. Recent reforms largely addressed future kits.
Last year, the state did remove a statute of limitations on reporting sexual assault, with the goal of giving survivors more time to decide when to pursue charges.
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