Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate was in Dubuque on Wednesday, training law enforcement in a program that offers address confidentiality to victims of violent and sexual crimes.
Iowa’s Safe At Home program started in 2016, protecting address tracking through public documents for survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, trafficking and stalking. Earlier this year, the Legislature and Pate’s office added assault to the list of crimes.
The administration of the program led to a tour this week putting Pate in rooms with groups he normally would not be with — local law enforcement. Members of the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department and Asbury, Dubuque and Peosta police departments were present for the training in Dubuque.
“People may say, ‘What does the secretary of state have to do with this?’” Pate told the Telegraph Herald after the training. “I’m the commissioner of elections. Voter registration is a public document. Bad actors can track someone down through that. If you’re trying to get back to a normal life, come out of the shadows and back into the light and be part of the community, you don’t want to worry about those bad actors finding out where you live.”
In participating, qualifying survivors are able to make their official public address — for use on voter registration, driver’s license and other public documents — something other than where they live.
“We set it up to where their mail, their legal documents would be forwarded through our office so bad actors don’t know where they live,” Pate said.
He said training law enforcement about the program helps in multiple ways.
“When (officers) encounter people who might need (the program), they can share that information,” he said. “Also, if they encounter someone who’s in the program, they respect the program and know that’s a legal ID and they are legitimate and don’t make their lives more challenging in that respect.”
Sheriff Joe Kennedy said the training had been very informative.
“We weren’t really familiar with the program until we had this meeting here,” he said. “It’s a good thing any time you can do something to help protect the victims of crime, particularly domestic violence, sexual violence, things like that. A lot of times, victims of that can’t do anything to protect themselves. It’s nice to know what we can expect to tell victims.”
More than 1,000 Iowans — residents of 68 of the state’s 99 counties — have participated in the program. He said the tour was timely both because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and because of a reduction in crime reporting during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Those interested in the program can learn more at SafeatHome.Iowa.gov.