Three ways Iowa is ensuring safety and justice for victims

Iowa is taking positive steps to help survivors of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, human trafficking and violent crimes. Here are three recent pieces of good news:

1. A new $2 million federal grant will help the state test a backlog of sexual assault kits and investigate and prosecute rape cases. The Crime Victim Assistance Division at the Attorney General’s Office will head up this effort to bring long-overdue justice to victims.

2. As of Oct. 1, the Iowa Domestic Violence HelpLine is in operation at 1-800-770-1650. The 24/7 statewide crisis and counseling line is staffed with trained experts providing free and confidential assistance to those seeking to escape an abusive situation. The effort is paid for with $420,000 from the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division. For more information, visit “http://www.survivorshelpline.org”>www.survivorshelpline.org.

3. On Jan. 1, 2016, Iowa will join 33 other states with an address confidentiality program that helps ensure victims are safe from their abusers. Through “Safe at Home,” a victim’s mail arrives at a substitute address managed by the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office and is forwarded to a confidential address. This prevents their physical address from appearing on public records. Applications for the program will be accepted starting in mid-December. For more information, go to safeathome.iowa.gov/.

These are good steps, but there is more we can do. During the 2016 session, I hope the House will seriously consider taking another look at bills the Senate passed with unanimous support this year. These include:

Adding dating violence in the definition of criminal domestic abuse, which would require mandatory periods of confinement and batterer’s education upon conviction (SF 300).

Allowing victims of sexual abuse to get a civil protective order to keep their abuser away from their home, school and work (SF 336).

Cracking down on stalking by expanding its definition to include the use of surveillance technology and allowing a victim to report being stalked if they feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated or threatened by another person (SF 395).

Prohibiting the use of GPS to track a person without legitimate purpose or authorization (SF 416).

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State Sen. Steve Sodders can be reached by calling the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise he can be reached at 641-751-4140 or via email: steve.sodders@legis.iowa.gov