Bipartisan bills would shield domestic and sexual violence victims’ addresses

By: - October 18, 2019 1:45 pm

Image by ArtTower from Pixabay

Legislation introduced this month in the Michigan Legislature could help stop perpetrators from finding victims of domestic or sexual violence again. 

The bipartisan Address Confidentiality Act would require all government entities to use a confidential “designated address” to mail items, such as voter registrations and driver licenses to victims of violence.

Victims of crimes — and those who feel their life and well-being are at risk of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, human trafficking or other physical harm — would be able to apply to be a part of the “Address Confidentiality Program.” No conviction is required, just a signed affidavit showing the applicant feels they are at risk. Applicants can apply on behalf of their child or ward who is at risk.

The package includes Senate Bills 70-76 and House Bills 5054-5058. State Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton) is the primary sponsor for House Bill 5056.

“It came to us really from hearing from survivors and their stories and the need to protect their home addresses when going through trauma,” Pagan said. “Survivors, they want to heal and take the time to move on. Yet if their abuser* continues to have easy access to where they are, it’s not a good situation; the violence continues.”

Kristy Pagan

The Senate bills are expected to be on the floor for a vote next week, Pagan said, and then the House bills can follow suit.

House Bill 5054, sponsored by state Rep. Diana Farrington (R-Utica), amends the Sexual Assault Victim’s Access to Justice Act that allows victims to request information from law enforcement. Law enforcement can respond to information requests from victims by phone, mail or email. However, this bill would require the response be mailed to the address designated by a confidentiality program. House Bills 5056-5058 address additional details for law enforcement to use the addresses from the confidentiality program.

House Bill 5055, sponsored by state Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland), amends the Code for Criminal Procedure. Under the code, after a peace officer has investigated or intervened in a domestic violence incident, they are required to provide the victim with a notice, including:

  • The name and number of the responding law enforcement agency
  • The name and badge number of the responding officer
  • Information pertaining to the fact that a victim can obtain a copy of the police incident report by calling the agency
  • Information about local domestic violence shelters, counseling services and legal rights of domestic violence victims along with what constitutes domestic violence
Julie Calley

This bill would add that every victim or person thought to have been a victim during an investigation receives must receive a notice that includes information about applying to the Department of the Attorney General for participation in the Address Confidentiality Program.

The House Bills were formed by the Progressive Women’s Caucus. Pagan said these bills, though largely backed by female lawmakers, are meant to be all-inclusive for those who feel at risk of violence. The bills are meant to establish safety and be a resource victims can run to in the face of danger “just like someone might flee to a shelter.”

The caucus is introducing more legislation next week as a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Pagan said.

These bills will provide:

  • Eviction protection for survivors: If police show up to a person’s home often, as a result of domestic violence, that can not be grounds for eviction
  • Protections for victims of stalking to use paid medical leave.
  • Protections to allow individuals to receive unemployment benefits as a consequence of domestic violence.
  • Discrimination protection for victims of domestic violence from realtors and landlords.

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Anna Liz Nichols
Anna Liz Nichols

Anna Liz Nichols is a former Michigan Advance intern. She is a Michigan State University graduate who has reported for several publications, including MLive and Michigan State University’s award-winning student paper, the State News, where she covered the many tendrils of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.