"Simon said one of his major priorities this year was getting a bill passed that would clarify when the actual address of a Safe at Home participant could be released."
Rochester Post-Bulletin: State official puts spotlight on Safe at Home program
By Heather J. Carlson, 6/2/15
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon visited Rochester on Monday to tout a state program focused on keeping domestic violence survivors' addresses confidential.
Simon met with staff at the Women's Shelter to talk about "Safe at Home." The program gives survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking the chance to establish a confidential mailing address. Each participant is given a substitute address that can be used for mail and on a driver's license. The mail goes to the Safe at Home program and is forwarded to the participants' actual addresses.
Women's Shelter Assistant Director Melissa Psomas said the Safe at Home program provides needed peace of mind for survivors trying to escape an abuser.
"It's a great way to help keep yourself safe," she said.
Simon said one of his major priorities this year was getting a bill passed that would clarify when the actual address of a Safe at Home participant could be released.
"Courts and judges throughout Minnesota were telling us there was a real vagueness in the law about the standards that they should use to determine when, if ever, they should divulge or hand over the addresses that belong to folks who are victims of domestic violence," he said.
In order for the information to be released, a court must consider whether the disclosure is necessary, if there is any other practical way to obtain the information and whether the disclosure puts the program participant at risk.
"Now for the first time ever we have it on the books that before anyone can release this address in court, we have to have testimony from victims about what it would mean to release that address," Simon said.
The bill passed this legislative session and Gov. Mark Dayton signed it.
Since the Safe at Home program was created in 2007, more than 5,000 people have used it. Women's Shelter Coordinator Shawn Jensen helps get survivors signed up for the program. She said the program is often helpful if a survivor is moving to a new address or if they are being stalked by someone on the Internet who doesn't know her home address.
Not only does Jensen recommend the program to others, she has also signed up for it herself because of her job. She said it's been easy to use and she has had no problems using the substitute address.
She added, "I signed up nearly a year ago. I love it."