Victimization is sustained by fear.
We join supporters of expanding Missouri's Safe at Home program, created to reduce a victim's fear of being located and further tormented - physically, mentally and emotionally.
The program, operated by the Missouri Secretary of State's office, provides confidential public records and mailing addresses for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or rape.
Expanding the program to include victims of human trafficking is an initiative announced Tuesday by Secretary of State Jason Kander and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
Whenever a proposal is offered to expand a government program, two questions that must be asked are: is it working and is expansion justified.
Kander said the program has helped more than 2,500 Missourians and added the Department of Justice recently ranked St. Louis as one of the top 20 human-trafficking jurisdictions in the country.
At the announcement, Katie Rhoades, a victim of human trafficking, spoke about the importance of a program that mitigates fear. "For me, leaving was the scariest part" she said. "A lot of folks that have experienced human trafficking say that safety after leaving is the biggest concern. A lot of times, many victims won't actually leave the situation because they are afraid of what is going to happen to them after they leave."
That fear is a common denominator for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, as well.
Building on a successful program is a way to make a difference for victims, according to Colleen Coble, CEO of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
"Those who are so evil as to buy and sell humans as commodities will certainly seek to do them harm when they are fortunate enough to escape," she said. "If we can ... begin to really build infrastructure in our state - which we don't have, to provide protections to victims of human trafficking - we can truly change the world."
Kander's initiative already has earned support from lawmakers, victims' advocates and law enforcement groups. We encourage everyone to get behind this proposal and expedite passage.