Crime victim advocates are backing a bill that would help stalking victims keep their home addresses private. Nancy Robertson of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence says the bill would allow victims with either a no-contact order or some court decree to register to vote or own property without having their addresses disclosed in public records.
“I often times get calls from an individual who has done everything that they thought that they could do to stay safe and stay ahead of their batterer,” Robertson says. “Maybe they’ve moved several times and they think that they’re finally in a place that they’re safe, and then they realize that when they go to register to vote, and they have a cunning barterer, that that information can be found.”
Robertson says property tax records are important, too, because even some of the domestic violence shelters are listed on public websites. “It’s extremely important that there be a mechanism to allow victims to keep confidential their location,” she says.
Beth Barnhill of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault agrees. About 80 percent of people who are sexually assaulted are assaulted by someone they know, and Barnhill says it leaves people feeling very betrayed and afraid of their safety. “Providing a mechanism to protect voter registration and property tax assessment information is an important step in recognizing those unique needs,” Barnhill says.
Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny, is sponsoring the bill that gives victims some privacy. He’s also asking his fellow legislators to spend one-and-a-half million dollars on centers that serve victims of sex crimes and domestic assault. State funding for the centers was cut in 2002, and never restored. Five centers had to close, and Lamberti says it’s time to spend some state money to maintain the ones that are still open. “We think these are the right things to do,” Lamberti says.
Managers of the domestic violence shelters say they’d use the money to extend services from already-open centers by, for example, picking up the tab for the gas so a counselor could drive to the victim’s home. Tuesday was crime victim advocates day at the statehouse and crime victim advocates made home-baked cookies and brownies for legislators.