LANCASTER, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose highlighted the Safe at Home program by touring a women’s shelter in Lancaster on Monday.
Lawmakers are currently working on a way to expand the program to help more victims of domestic violence.
“The entire time they’re in shelter, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that we’re building a safety plan for them and protecting them while they’re here, but once they want to go out on their own and build a new life, there’s only so much we can do to try to protect them,” said Susan Nixon-Stoughton, Executive Director of The Lighthouse.
The Safe at Home program allows Ohioans who are victims of stalking, domestic violence, human trafficking, rape or sexual battery to shield their address from some public records. The program assigns a substitute address that they can use on things like voter registration records.
“We had started to hear that domestic violence survivors were not registering to vote because they were afraid of their abusers being able to find them using voter registration,” LaRose said.
The program began in 2016, but right now, a bill at the Ohio Statehouse would expand the program, allowing these people to do things like buy a house without releasing their information. House Bill 93 has already passed the House this year and is now in the State Senate.
“Secrecy, that’s the main goal,” Nixon-Stoughton said. “That’s what everyone needs when they come through needing help through the domestic violence shelter.”
Currently, the program is being utilized by hundreds of Ohioans, but LaRose says thousands could benefit from it.
“The last thing that state government should do is be giving their address out to people, right?,” LaRose said. “So, thankfully, this program allows people to vote, own a home, once we get Jeff’s (LaRe) bill passed and do so in a way that’s not going to jeopardize their safety.”