JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Secretary of State John Ashcroft celebrated the 10th anniversary of the creation of Safe at Home, a confidentiality program that helps protect survivors of sexual violence. Ashcroft held a press conference on Monday, where he lauded the program and gave his time to a survivor who spoke about its importance in her life.
The program was founded in August of 2007 and helped over 1,640 individuals since then. Ashcroft spoke about the necessity of the program, mentioning how dangerous it is for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, human trafficking and/or stalking to leave their abusers. Often, abusers will threaten physical violence to prevent survivors from leaving or reporting them to the authorities.
The program helps survivors separate by keeping their addresses, phone numbers, and schools anonymous. It provides a free-mail forwarding system and can act as a substitute address to meet the requirements of a home, work, or school. The program acts as an avenue to ensure the safety of survivors.
“I can’t think of much if anything else the government does that is better than being there for individuals that have had these vile acts perpetrated against them,” he somberly said on Monday.
Ashcroft thanked the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV), a key partner for the Safe at Home program. MCADSV helped train, guide, and provide technical assistance for employees at Safe at Home. MCADV also helps educate, research, and craft public policy to help Missouri fight sexual violence.
A 2014 study found that Missouri is the 16th highest state where women murdered are by men in single victim/single offender homicides.
Safe at Home protects the identity and location of survivors who report with the program, making it easier for them and their children to escape sexual violence. “The simplicity of the Safe at Home program sometimes obscures its immense impact on survivors’ lives,” says Colleen Coble, CEO of MCADSV.
One woman spoke about how she would not be alive without the Safe and Sound program. After she got married, her then-husband became controlling and manipulative and eventually manifested itself in domestic abuse. She knew she had to leave, but she he was not sure what would happen when she did.
“The overwhelming emotional stress made logic difficult. To an outsider, the decision to leave an abuser may seem simple, however to the victim, leaving an abuser becomes extremely complex. It’s not about the decision, it’s about the unknown consequences that follow,” she said.
When she left, she filed for divorce, and her abuser continued to threaten to kill her. During their divorce hearing, her then-husband would learn her personal information, including her new residence. Because he knew where she lived and where she worked, he knew how to find her. He would take his gun and shoot at her house, eventually setting her house and car on fire, in attempts to kill her.
She received a phone call and learned about Safe at Home in its earliest phases. The program saved her life.
“Someone took me by the hand and helped pull me out of the darkness. This program offered the tool I needed to better protect my personal information when no one else could. They helped me navigate the system safely when I was completely helpless on my own,” she said.
“They gave me hope. They gave me strength. I know this because I would not be here today if it were not for the Safe at Home program,” she shared.
To apply for the Safe at Home program, visit their website, where users can register with an application assistant.