Major Loophole Closed in Program Protecting Privacy of Abuse Victims

AUSTIN — One woman fled across state lines, tired of the fractured ribs and broken leases, of pulling her kids out of school — four times in semester — sick of how her husband, whose job it was to protect people, used his hands instead to harm her.Another received a card from the man who raped her every year on her birthday, the handwritten message mocking her from the mailbox outside her home.Then there was the mother, afraid for her young daughter and son-in-law, who were trying to start their new life while their stalker walked free, impeded only by an ankle monitor and a restraining order.It was this mother's story that got Plano Sen. Van Taylor interested in the Texas Address Confidentiality Program. The free service — a kind of witness protection program for Texans who've experienced family violence, sexual abuse, stalking or human trafficking — has helped keep private the personal information of hundreds of survivors in the last decade.But there was one glaring problem, the mother told Taylor. Abusers could still find the home addresses of victims like her daughter through local voter registration rolls and property appraisal websites.This loophole kept unknown numbers of people from participating in the program, and, even worse, could have put those already in it at risk.Women who were raped shied away from voting, losing a right they'd never thought would be affected by their victimization, advocates said. Others were told by local property appraisal districts their addresses would remain public, even with active protective orders against attackers who still lived in their own community."You basically learn to protect yourself," the mother, who requested anonymity to protect her family, told The Dallas Morning News. "It's nothing but misery.""I just figured, if were going to change laws, we got to start talking to somebody."'A clarion call'  Continue reading...

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