AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– When victims of domestic violence work to gain their independence, one of the first steps is self-protection.
One of the best ways for that to happen could be as simple as a name change. The Georgia House agrees and has passed a bill that would help those victims get their lives back.
Currently, when a person decides to change their name, it’s required to be listed in public records.
This bill could allow domestic violence victims to privately change their names. A previous domestic violence sufferer told NewsChannel 6 what this bill means to her: “I think that would be great because some women never do escape, and I think given a new name, you could get away from that. They wouldn’t be looking for that new name. They’d be looking for the old name.”
It’s been over a decade since this victim escaped her abuser, but still, merely thinking back on those days affects her.
She said this bill will bring a fresh start to victims.
The Georgia bill states victims of domestic violence could change their names privately. Currently name changes are required to be listed in public court documents, but that can be frightening for victims who have recently escaped an abusive partner. Fear remains that they will continue to be stalked. If this bill becomes a law, judges will be able to keep name-change records sealed.
“I think it could save a lot of lives… when you get a new house, you have to give your name and details about your identity and I think that could stop someone from coming to somebody’s house or going to somebody’s work,” the anonymous victim said.
Aimee Hall, Executive Director of Safe Homes, said technology makes it easy for abusers to find their victims. She put this in perspective when she recalled an escape story: “From the time we arranged the air flight for her and her kids to get out of state, he was already waiting, and it was up north. So he had flown from Georgia and was waiting for her in the state that we were going to move her to.”
She said the abuser tracked the family through phone bills and other technology.
“I think with the victim being able to have the possibility of changing their name, and it not have to go through the whole publication process, it’s just another tool for them to remain safe,” Hall said.
“It still affects me. Giving somebody that new start could really help them to rebuild their lives and start over with their children and just have a better life without all the anxiety and being scared all the time,” the anonymous victim concluded.
With crossover day on Friday, this bill just made it under the radar, being approved by the Georgia house Monday.
The Georgia Senate will take up the name change bill as the legislative session continues.