Survivors of domestic violence deserve to feel safe at home

By Iowa Secretary of State, Paul Pate

Every October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Since last October, 10 Iowans have died due to this horrific crime.

In 1989, Congress declared the month of October to be Domestic Awareness Month. For the last 34 years Domestic Violence Month has helped start the conversation on the crime’s impact on victims, survivors, and families everywhere.

Nearly every individual has felt the effects of domestic violence, even here in Iowa. It impacts every community, regardless of age, race, gender, marital status, educational level, or socioeconomic status. It is an equal opportunity crime. Approximately a third of Iowans – 35% of Iowa women and 29% of Iowa men – have reported experiencing domestic violence, sexual abuse, or stalking from their partner.

Domestic violence involves a pattern of abusive and threatening behaviors aimed at gaining power and control over a partner. While physical assault is a central tactic in domestic violence, many abusers evolve to sexual violence, threats, and economic, emotional and psychological abuse. Consequences of this crime are devastating – physical injury, long-term psychological trauma, and yes, death.

Domestic Violence Month is an opportunity to support survivors of this crime and their families, hold abusers accountable, and shed a light on the resources available for them. One resource available to Iowans is our office’s Safe at Home program, an initiative that was passed unanimously by the Iowa Legislature in 2015.

Safe at Home adds a vital layer of protection for survivors, making it harder for abusers to locate them. It provides a substitute address and shields victims’ actual addresses from public records. Abusers go to great lengths to locate the survivor when they feel they have lost control. Survivors are often at the highest risk of injury or death from an abuser when they leave them. This program allows survivors to stay physically safe in their homes without fear of their abuser locating them through the public records. In addition to a substitute address, Safe at Home participants have access to a mail forwarding service and confidential voter registration and absentee ballot.

Since Safe at Home’s official launch in 2016, the program has grown to serve more than 2,000 Iowans. It is just one resource among many for survivors of domestic violence:

Iowans deserve to feel safe at home, and 54% of Safe at Home participants reported they never felt safe prior to enrolling in the program while 41% only felt safe sometimes. After enrolling, 66% of participants have reported feeling safe most of the time and 27% feeling safe always.

Since you’ve started reading this, 20 people across the country have been abused by a domestic partner. This crime is an epidemic nationwide. On Thursday, October 19, you can join advocates across America in participating in Purple Thursday and wearing purple. Together, we can be a voice for victims.

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