After her stalker violated the conditions of a protection order, a Lorain County woman says Ohio’s public records laws are putting her safety in jeopardy.
The woman, who is going only by the name Kate, filed for a protection order against Javier Ramos in 2014.
According to court records, she’s just one of at least 6 people who filed for protection orders against the 49-year-old after testifying that Ramos stalked them over an extended period of time.
“It was extremely uncomfortable,” Kate said.
She said she had no issues until this year when Ramos started repeatedly trying to contact her on Facebook. Kate said he created more than 11 Facebook pages in an effort to make contact.
Kate brought the evidence to the Lorain Police Department but it wasn’t until her third trip that she was able to make a report.
She asked to remain anonymous in the report out of fear that her stalker would find her at her new residence.
“But I was told no, it’s all public record and social security number is the only thing that would be blurred out of anything,” Kate said.
Victims names are public information according to Ohio Records laws.
Lorain police told News 5 that they have no official policy on the matter.
“In filing a criminal complaint a person should be aware that their name and personal information will be listed in the reports,” a police spokesperson said. “We normally withhold a victim's address in that type of complaint, but I would think it is common sense that their name would be listed in a report when they are alleging that they are the victim of a criminal act.”
Policies vary widely from police department to police department.
A News 5 investigation uncovered that police in Cleveland Heights were posting rape reports — complete with the victim’s name and contact information — online. The policy was amended as a result of News 5’s report.
Leslie Quilty, Chief Operating Officer of the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, told News 5 that policies should favor anonymity at all costs.
“It’s very risky that that information can then come back to their stalker,” Quilty explained. “victim confidentiality is absolutely imperative.”
The Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center helps victims apply for an address confidentiality program through the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, but many victims are unaware that they have to apply.
“Many don’t know,” Quilty said. “They don’t realize that the personal information given on records or police reports could be used down the line.
Kate said she was also concerned because she thought she’d signed up for a victim notification program for the duration of her 5-year protection order but was later told that she needed to have renewed that registration every year.
News 5 reached out to the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office about this case but did not receive a response.