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'We believe you' | YWCA works to help abuse survivors vote safely

The YWCA said many domestic violence abuse survivors don't vote out fear of their info being made public. However, there is a state program that can help.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — National data shows on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.

Victim advocates add once survivors leave, they still face emotional and physical barriers. That can include things like not taking advantage of federal benefits, registering children for school or even not voting out of fear that their information can be made public for their abuser to see. However, the YWCA of East Tennessee serves as a resource for those who are looking for help, not just on the emotional side, but the physical aspects, too.

“It just takes a victim knowing there is something available. Maybe that’s what’s holding them back,” YWCA Victims Advocacy Program Coordinator Catherine Jones said.

To address this, the state launched a relatively new program which allows survivors to apply to get their addresses removed from public documents, where it is replaced by a government address. 

“What they developed was a Safe at Home program, which is an address confidentiality program that is no cost to victims,” Jones said. 

However, there are some things you need to know in order to get help.  First and foremost you have to go through a certified assistant, which the YWCA has on hand. They help you through the process.

“Once a victim completes an application, it goes to the state. And what they will do is take their home address and redact it," Jones said. “It needs to be completed within 30 days of a victim relocating.”

With the deadline to register to vote October 5, Jones said there is still time -- but your paperwork has to be postmarked before the deadline.

“I would encourage anyone who’s interested to visit the Secretary of State’s website,” Jones added.

The program is relatively new, but Jones said there needs to be more awareness for those who are looking for help.

“This program is new in Tennessee. There are similar ones in other states in the U.S., but up until 2018 there wasn’t a program like this in Tennessee,” she said. “It really relies on word of mouth, and not just applicants -- but media.”

So if you need help, the YWCA wants you to know -- whether it is help with voting, applying for government help, or simply getting out of your situation -- they can help you.

"It takes a village. It doesn’t discriminate. All it takes is one person to start with, 'We believe you,'” Jones said. “Call our main number, email us, and we can get them connected with an advocate as well.”

The can find the YWCA website here. Their number is (865) 523-6126, and you can email them at info@ywcaknox.com.

Today is #NationalVoterRegistrationDay and our staff members joined the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge, Tennessee...

Posted by YWCA Knoxville & the Tennessee Valley on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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