Survivors of assault and abuse often live in constant fear. Their days are filled with anxiety, knowing that their abuser or attacker might strike again. The Safe at Home program exists to aid survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and trafficking by providing them with a legal substitute address, mail forwarding service, and confidential voter registration. The program allows participants to return to active lives without listing their actual address on public records.
Recognizing that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, one of the Safe at Home program participants agreed to share her story. Her desire is to bring awareness to the realities of sexual assault, and the resources that are available to survivors. Her identity is being kept anonymous for her protection.
“On December 31, 2014 in a small Iowa town, my live-in boyfriend was making me recite the Pledge of Allegiance three times clearly, while crushing my skull with his size 12 shoe. This was after he jumped me from behind and slammed me on the floor, cracking three ribs and spraining my left wrist, along with other injuries. This happened in our home. It has taken me three years to walk in safety on the streets of the town where I now live. That is to say, my emotional safety. I will always be in physical jeopardy from my abuser.
“I have since lived all over the United States, with one ear cocked for a familiar voice while looking over my shoulder. That voice will be of retaliation including the chance of sexual assault and possible death by violence. Or the other voice, the charming voice of apologies and promise of change with the same violent results if I allow the abuser back in my life. I believe these facts now, after 30 years of jumping from abusive to healthy relationships. Now, I live in Iowa doing what it takes to end the cycles of violence.
“I moved back to Iowa, making the decision to put my physical and emotional life back together. I arrive home now feeling safe, thanks to the excellent law enforcement my community provides. Thank you to my home town and the State of Iowa.
“The list of tasks a survivor needs to do just to feel like a normal person who hasn’t experienced violence seems endless, but it’s something that needs to be done. Iowa’s Safe at Home program is one of the components of that list. Safe at Home provides us with tools such as a confidential address, making it highly difficult for the abuser to find your real address by accessing public and legal records in order to find you and your home.
Safe at Home gives you a legal ‘virtual’ address that forwards your mail to where you actually live, giving you a level of comfort that you won’t have to run away scared again. You can feel safe once more to complete that list which leads to the end of domestic abuse and/or sexual assault.
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“I now have the freedom to walk out in public with confidence. If I can do it, I know you can too. If you are looking for a way out, Safe at Home can help.”
For more information about Safe at Home, visit www.safeathome.iowa.gov. Every Iowan deserves to feel safe at home.
• Paul Pate is Iowa’s Secretary of State