New state law would help victims start over

We like what we’ve seen of a new state proposal that would enable the victims of sexual assault or domestic violence to withhold their street addresses in public records to keep the information from falling into the hands of potential abusers.

The proposal was introduced in the state Senate by Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, who was inspired to begin work on the bill after speaking to a survivor of domestic abuse. The survivor worried that a potential abuser, who allegedly threatened her from behind prison bars, could access her contact information from public records once he was released.

“I was able to see how many people who are survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking cannot feel safe when they try to start their life over,” O’Brien told the Detroit News. “So we want to offer a reasonable path that could help them stay in Michigan but start over and be able to stay safe.”

If passed into law in its present form, the proposal would be administered out of the Attorney General’s office. It would be open to the victims of domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking or sexual assault. Parents could apply on behalf of minors, the News reported. According to one source, 37 states already have similar laws.

It would cost about $400,000 to run the program annually. And there may be other unanticipated costs borne by the Secretary of State’s Office and the Department of Technology Management and Budget.

We still like the program, though. Police and prosecutors will tell you that victims are often re-abused by the original offenders.

This law, which is going to be considered by the Michigan House, would make that more difficult.