HOUSTON - With the election season underway, some domestic violence survivors are trying to figure out how to vote safely at the polls.
These survivors are leaving a dangerous situation, so they're often faced with unique barriers in the voting process.
They first have to register to vote, and there are privacy concerns because their address is made public. That alone can deter them from participating in elections.
Some survivors also fear their abuser may show up at the polls.
If a survivor has a restraining order against their abuser, they can request their address remain confidential as a voter. Others can enroll in the state’s address confidentiality program which provides a substitute post office box address and mail forwarding service.
The Houston Area Women's Center says it works to ensure their clients have transportation and that advocates are there with them to make sure they can vote safely.
Chau Nguyen, HAWC’s Chief Public Strategies Officer, says one of the best things you can do is vote early and don't wait until the day of to decide which polling site to go to.
"It might look like changing your course of action. If you’re driving to work on the same path every day, that might be a cue for an abuser to stalk or to watch your tracks,” Nguyen says. “Maybe when you’re voting during this time, you go to a poll place where you don’t tell anybody. Bring a friend. Make sure your phone is with you. Stay safe.”
If you don't feel like it is safe for you to vote or you need help or support, you can call their hotline at 713-528-2121. It's free and confidential. There's even a chat box option available on their website at hawc.org.