St. Cloud Times: Steve Simon: Safe at Home protects abuse victims
By Steve Simon
One in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in his or her lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That number is staggering, and it’s unacceptable.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and, as secretary of state, I want to make Minnesotans aware of a program my office administers that could potentially make a difference to people who are suffering.
It’s called the Safe at Home program.
Safe at Home is an address confidentiality program designed to help Minnesotans who fear for their safety, including victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
The program allows participants to go about their daily lives, interacting with public and private entities, without leaving traces of where they can typically be located (such as their residential address, a school address, or an employment address) to prevent their abusers from locating them.
It has helped thousands of Minnesotans and almost certainly saved lives since its inception, and strengthening and increasing awareness about the program is one of my top priorities as secretary of state.
How does Safe at Home work?
Put simply, Safe at Home provides a mail forwarding service for Minnesotans who wish to keep the location of their physical residence private for personal safety reasons.
Participants in the program use a P.O. Box as their legal address for all purposes, such as paying bills, filing taxes, payroll, legal services, and many others. First-class mail sent to the P.O. Box is forwarded to the participant’s physical address by the secretary of state’s office.
Victims trying to get away from their abuser can unwittingly leave a trace online or elsewhere of their physical residence, and this program helps prevent that from happening.
How do you enroll in Safe at Home?
Safe at Home partners with organizations all around the state to work with people who wish to enroll in the program, from the Twin Cities to Thief River Falls. Application Assistants, employed by these partner organizations, are specially trained by Safe at Home staff to assist those who need the protections this program provides.
A person who wants to enroll in the program meets face-to-face with an application assistant to discuss their safety concerns and the assistant works with them to determine whether enrolling in Safe at Home is a good safety step for the person to take. It is a difficult road for Safe at Home participants, but to those for whom the program is appropriate, it can literally be a lifesaver.
There are over 230 trained application assistants throughout Minnesota. In my travels around the state I’ve met a number of these incredible people, and I can’t thank them enough for their dedication, bravery and commitment to serving those who live in fear.
I encourage any Minnesotan who has concerns about their safety to meet with an assistant to determine if the Safe at Home program is a good fit. To find an application assistant in your area and learn more, please call 651-201-1399.
Safe at Home is incredibly important to me and, as robust as it already is, I have been working hard to strengthen it and ensure its success.
Earlier this year, I worked with Republicans and Democrats at the Legislature to successfully pass a bill, which was signed into law by the governor in May, to further strengthen the program by providing courts with a uniform framework when working with Safe at Home participants.
I have personally visited with a number of Safe at Home partner organizations while traveling the state, including those in Aitkin, Albert Lea, Cambridge, Cloquet, Duluth, Faribault, International Falls, Little Falls, Mankato, Winona, Rochester, Warren and Worthington.
And I’ve learned firsthand just how critical this life-saving service is to so many women, men, children and families.
But there’s one thing I hear almost everywhere I go: Not enough Minnesotans know about Safe at Home. I’m working to change that, but I can’t do it alone.
If you’re a victim of domestic violence, or if you know someone who is suffering, please let them know about Safe at Home. The difference is just a call away.
This is the opinion of Steve Simon, Minnesota's secretary of state.