Story by: Alex Apple
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — The state of Tennessee is throwing a lifeline for victims of domestic violence. More than 2,000 victims of domestic violence in 2017 had reported violence before.
Lawmakers announced the Safe at Home program which will enable victims to register for substitute address, keeping their whereabouts off publicly accessible documents that can be used to track them.
Mary Jones, a mother of two, fled her husband after he put her in a chokehold. Free for 54 days, he then tracked her to a secure safe house and demanded she come out. That experience taught Jones firsthand how frightening being chased by an abuser can be.
“In my opinion, he was still looking for us; the chase was still on,” Jones said. “If you ever leave me, I’ll kill you. Those words ring with you. They don’t leave you, even years later, you don’t forget it. You process it a little different, but you don’t forget it.”
Her husband died roughly a year after she escaped from him, but she never regained peace of mind until that moment.
“I always had the feeling, somebody he knows is watching me, and then he’ll be on his way,” Jones continued. “If I could change my address, one shield I could get behind where he can’t find me, where he can’t see me, it makes all the difference in moving forward.”
State Senator Brian Kelsey and Representative Andrew Farmer sponsored the legislation that includes a free application for any victim of domestic violence (or stalking).
“Our goal is to shine a bright light on the problem of domestic violence in our state and help protect those Tennesseans who have been victimized from becoming victims again,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “Safe at Home provides victims and their families with a tool to help heal from their abuse, begin new lives and finally feel a sense of security in their communities.”
Under current Tennessee law, most state or local government records are considered public and available for public review. These public records include identifying documents like voter registration and other documents and information, making it easy for abusers to track and find their victims.
The government-managed substitute address will be their official address on all government documents, obscuring the victim’s actual whereabouts on things like voter registration, drivers licenses.
“My children and I are survivors of domestic violence, and it’s amazing the doors it opens. People walk up to you and say I’ve had that same experience. ‘I stayed or I left,'” Jones says with a smile. “There’s no cookie-cutter way to get out of domestic violence, but you have to make up your mind that not going back is how you want to live.”
You can register for the Safe at Home program by visiting this link.
Read the original story here.