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Not safer at home: A sexual assault victim’s story

Empower Wisconsin | April 6, 2020

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON — A Milwaukee-area woman worries her daughter, who was sexually assaulted as a child, could be victimized again if the slow-moving state Department of Justice doesn’t act quickly. 

The woman, who asked that she and her daughter not be identified for fear of retaliation, said the sexual predator who has spent the past 13 years in prison for repeatedly assaulting her daughter, is set to be released in June. Her daughter was 13 at the time the perpetrator was arrested. He is looking to live in the Milwaukee area upon his release, the source said.

The mother said she reached out a couple of months ago to administrators of the DOJ’s Safe at Home program. Victims of actual or threatened domestic abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, stalking and trafficking may apply for a legal substitute address to be used for both public and private purposes. Safe at Home forwards mail from the assigned address to participants’ actual addresses free of charge. 

“The intent of Safe at Home is for those who fear for their safety to be able to maintain a private, confidential home, work, or school address and gain some peace of mind,” the DOJ website states. 

It has proven effective, if DOJ responds. 

“I have been waiting three weeks for the application in the mail,” the mother wrote in an email. “I just tried to call the DOJ and a recorded message stated that the Safe at Home is UNABLE to process incoming cases.” 

Empower Wisconsin attempted reaching someone in the office. A recorded message noted that staff are working offsite during the coronavirus outbreak, and to expect delays in services. The message stated the Safe at Home program was “Unable to process incoming applications,” and apologized for any inconvenience. 

The processing delay is more than an inconvenience victims of violent crime. 

After weeks of the DOJ not responding, an official did inform the Milwaukee-area woman that her daughter, who resides elsewhere, would have to set up a meeting with a DOJ victims unit agent to make a “safe plan.” But the coronavirus and Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order have closed off a lot of in-person contact with the public. 

“She has to meet with somebody in person and nobody is meeting with anybody in person because of this coronavirus,” the mother said. 

Empower Wisconsin on Friday could not reach officials in the victims unit, and a request for comment was not returned. 

Meanwhile, a victim of a 1st-degree sexual assault knows her home address is currently a matter of public record — and the clock is ticking on her predator’s release. 

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