Last week at the Missouri Press Association annual convention in Springfield, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft talked about the Safe at Home program. Since it was enacted in Missouri in 2007, we haven’t heard much about it lately.

Missouri implemented an address confidentiality program for survivors of domestic violence 10 years ago. Ashcroft said the state now is looking to the federal government to strengthen the state program. The legislation would require the federal government to recognize state address confidentiality programs. Ashcroft was in Washington, D.C., recently and held a joint news conference with Sen. Roy Blunt and Rep. Jason Smith, who introduced the legislation in Congress.

By the federal government recognizing state programs that protect survivors of domestic abuse, all federal agencies would be required to use the designated substitute address provided by the states. It would provide extra protection to survivors of abuse and help ensure that their residential address can’t be found easily by their abusers.

Is this program necessary? Studies show that up to 75 percent of domestic violence homicides occur after the partners have separated. “Protecting a survivor’s address from an abuser can undoubtedly be a matter of life and death,” Ashcroft said. He pointed out that since Safe at Home began in 2007, more than 4,000 men, women and children have been protected through this program. Currently in the state, there are about 1,600 participants.

Ashcroft explained how the program works. A survivor enrolls in the program through one of more than 450 application assistants statewide. Once enrolled, the participant uses a post office box held by the secretary of state’s office as his or her physical address. That helps ensure that the victim’s actual residential address will not become part of new public records. First-class mail, certified mail and legal mail may be received by the Safe at Home program, and the items are then mailed directly to the participant.

Missouri is one of 36 states that administers an address confidentiality program. Missouri’s Safe at Home helps those who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, stalking and human trafficking. It has helped protect a victim’s actual physical address so it can’t be found in public records.

Participants in the program have credited it “as the first peace they’ve known since their abuse — a life-changing protection,” Ashcroft said.

Last year more than 44,000 incidents of domestic or sexual violence were reported to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. It has been estimated that only half of intimate partner abuse is reported to police nationwide.

Ashcroft praised Sen. Blunt and Rep. Smith for introducing federal legislation to give added protection by the Feds recognizing the state programs that provide address confidentiality. 

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On another issue, Ashcroft said he does not believe that term limits for members of the House and Senate in Missouri have resulted in better government.