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Secretary of State talks privacy for victims of violence

Secretary of State Steve Simon visited McLeod County Thursday, Feb. 18, to discuss privacy issues for victims of violence.

Everyone has the right to feel safe in their own home. The Minnesota Secretary of State office, McLeod Alliance for Domestic Violence and Safe Avenues are working to give this right back to survivors of domestic violence with the state program Safe at Home.
The program, which is run through the Secretary of State’s office, started nine years ago to keep survivors’ addresses confidential and, in turn, the survivors themselves safe. Participants in the program are provided with a post office box to use in lieu of an address and an identification card to present to organizations, such as schools, to allow the box number as an address of residence.
McLeod Alliance Legal Advocate Jill Barrall explained the program is open not only to survivors but also advocates, attorneys, law enforcement and anyone who feels unsafe.  
On Feb. 18, Secretary of State Steve Simon met with representatives from both the McLeod Alliance and Safe Avenues to discuss the program with those who work directly with it.
“I can’t do my job well by sitting in an office in St. Paul,” Simon said. “You have to get outside of the bubble.”
Simon has been involved with the program as a legislator and continues to work with it now as secretary of state. Though he said the program isn’t the right fit for everyone, it is a great comfort for many.
“I know this program has saved lives,” he said.
Security is, of course, the most important aspect of the program, with the addresses kept on a non-network computer and the “Safe at Home” office itself remaining confidential.
“The location of the office is so secret that I don’t know where it is,” Simon said. “It is literally on a need-to-know basis.”
McLeod Alliance Advocacy Coordinator Glynis Vacek said she was pleased with the program. She said the application is simple, the application assistants are well-trained and the organization receives solid support from the Safe at Home representatives.
“It’s nice for me to know that I can direct my clients to the Safe at Home program and know that they’re being well taken care of with that program,” Vacek said.

For more, see the Feb. 24 print edition of The Chronicle.