Guest Opinion: Protecting victims through the Safe at Home program
Safe at Home is only one example of how the State of Minnesota has made protecting victims of crime, and potential victims of crime, a priority.
April 18-24 marks the 40th anniversary of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. This important week is a time to recognize the needs of all crime victims and the progress we have achieved together over the past 40 years.
During those four decades, advocates, professionals, survivors, as well as victims and their families committed themselves to serving others throughout their communities by building awareness, remembering those who have been lost, and working together to make significant change. Their efforts, along with growing public demands for increased safety, led to the establishment of Minnesota’s Safe at Home Program, enacted into law in 2006.
As Minnesota’s address confidentiality program for people with heightened safety needs, Safe at Home has helped nearly 12,000 Minnesotans since it began enrolling eligible people in 2007. The program, administered by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, assists victims and survivors throughout the state in maintaining a confidential address to use as a tool of protection against the person they fear. This is accomplished by issuing them an alternate address, a PO Box address, that they use instead of their true address. It is their legal address for all purposes. Every public and private entity in the state must accept that assigned PO Box address and they are prohibited from requiring that the program participant disclose their true address.
Almost 40 other states have an address confidentiality program, but Minnesota has one of the country’s most comprehensive programs because it extends to the private sector and it does not restrict enrollment to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking like other programs do. Although a large share of people enroll in Safe at Home because of domestic violence, the program is open to any Minnesota resident who has an extreme safety need, including to people whose safety concerns relate to their profession. Relocation is key to ensuring program enrollment is an effective safety strategy and participation should be part of a more comprehensive safety plan developed with the assistance of a victim advocate.
Safe at Home is only one example of how the State of Minnesota has made protecting victims of crime, and potential victims of crime, a priority. Many people are surprised to learn that the first domestic violence shelter in the United States was established in St. Paul in 1973. These efforts, along with a Crime Victim Bill of Rights in statute, are some of the many accomplishments made during the past 40 years. However, we should not be complacent in our efforts. As long as our communities have survivors and victims of crime, there is still work to be done.
If you are someone who may benefit from the safety measures Safe at Home can provide, please call the Safe at Home office at 651-201-1399 or contact your local victim service provider.