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Published May 23, 2010 by Stow Sentry

Bill would shield records of domestic violence victims

by Marc Kovac

Columbus -- The Ohio Senate began deliberations on legislation that would shield addresses of some domestic violence victims from public records.

House Bill 391, sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Chandler (D-Kent), had its first hearing before the State and Local Government and Veterans Affairs Committee May 18. It passed the Ohio House in April, on a vote of 97-0.

The legislation would allow individuals who have been victims of violence or who are protected under court-issued orders to have their mail sent directly to the Secretary of State's Office.

That office, in turn, would forward the mail to participants, whose addresses would not be included in public records.

"Simple things that we take for granted, such as registering to vote or printing our address on forms at the doctor's office or our children's school, cause great anxiety for those who have escaped an abuser and do not want to be found," Chandler told committee members. "You cannot even get a driver's license without revealing your home address."

Thirty-seven states have adopted comparable programs, which are administered by secretaries of state, attorneys general or nonprofit agencies.

Proponents believe the Ohio program would cost about $140,000 per year.

Chandler said domestic violence victims are currently able to obtain protection orders against abusers, but those orders don't go far enough to stop additional acts of violence.

"A court order to stay away does not guarantee that a person will obey the order," she said. "Indeed, some victims are afraid to get a court order out of fear that it will enrage the perpetrator and place themselves and their children in even greater danger."

The legislation would not require address information to be redacted from existing public records, and it would not enable individuals facing criminal or civil charges from hiding.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. E-mail him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at Ohio Capital Blog.

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