To best serve our clients, our attorneys at O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates in Joliet are always on top of the latest changes in criminal laws. Today, we’d like to tell you about a new Illinois law that makes changes in investigation and prosecution of rape cases. This legislation strengthens the rights of sexual assault victims and was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner.
An article in the Daily Egyptian provides some statistics. Studies show that one in five American women and one in 33 American men will have been a victim of rape or an attempted rape sometime in their lives. It is estimated that 43 percent of lesbian and bisexual women and 30 percent of gay and bisexual men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.
The article states that the new law provides victims of sexual assault stronger protections during the evidence collection process and ensures transfer of evidence from hospital to police in a timely manner. It also enables the state to hire forensic scientists to analyze evidence and addresses the decade-long rape kit backlog at state crime labs.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan spearheaded these changes after a Belleville News-Democrat investigative report in February 2015 called Violation of Trust found sex crime perpetrators were often not charged for their crimes. This report compared the number of sexual assault and abuse cases reported to police with the number of cases filed by prosecutors across 32 counties in southernmost Illinois from 2005 to 2013. Using this data, it was found that 70 percent of sex crimes never made it to a courtroom.
The Violation of Trust report found that thousands of women, teenage girls, and children in the 32-county area of Southern Illinois told law enforcement they were sexually violated by someone they trusted like a family member, friend, or ex-boyfriend. However, authorities did not prosecute seven out of 10 of these sex crime suspects from 2005-2013. This was despite the fact that the victims were able to identify their attackers 95 percent of the time.
The report also mentions that while the national debate has focused on rape on college campuses and in the military, a review of more than 1,000 police reports and 15,000 pages of court records showed that a failure to bring sex crime suspects to court was common throughout Southern Illinois during the nine-year period ending in 2013 that was studied.
Since the Belleville News-Democrat story was published, a task force was formed by the attorney general and referred to as the Sexual Assault Working Group. This group helped push the bill through the legislature. The goal of the bill was to remedy the fact that most sexual assault victims don’t report their crimes to police.
The working group, led by Attorney General Madigan, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Brendan Kelly and Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault Executive Director Polly Poskin, created the legislation, which was sponsored by Senator Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, and Representative Emily McAsey, D-Lockport.
The attorney general said the working group spent over a year looking at how the Illinois criminal justice system can better respond and investigate to support sexual assault survivors. She said the new law requires not only specialized training but specific protocols for sexual assault crimes.
At the heart of the bill are victim-centered policies and sexual assault response training for police and first responders, including 911 operators. The goals of the law seek to encourage survivors to report the crimes and to provide a more appropriate response to survivors.
Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault Executive Director Polly Poskin agrees that focusing on training 911 operators, first responders, and law enforcement will improve their response to survivors of rape and sexual assault.
Under the new law:
- Police and dispatchers will put into place evidence-based, trauma-informed, victim-centered policies governing responses to sexual assault.
- Police officers will complete written reports of every sexual assault, regardless of who is reporting the crime and where it occurred.
- Victim-sensitivity training is provided for police investigators, first-responders, and 911 operators.
- Victims are entitled to updates on the status of testing of sexual assault evidence. Illinois State Police are required to respond to status requests unless it will compromise the investigation.
- The time period given to victims to consent to testing of their sexual assault forensic evidence is extended from 14 days to five years after the assault. Victims who are minors will have five years from their 18th birthday to consent to testing the evidence.
In the Daily Egyptian article, the St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, a member of the Sexual Assault Working Group said that the new law was the first step in holding sexual assault offenders accountable, supporting the needs of survivors, and prosecuting cases so that justice is served.
This legislation was sponsored by Senator Scott Bennett, D-Champaign who was a former prosecutor and a member of the working group. He was quoted in the Daily Egyptian as saying that it’s important because the law provides training to first responders that will allow survivors to get information about evidence testing.
Representative Emily McAsey, D-Lockport, a house sponsor of the legislation and also a member of the group, says this law gives support and services to the victims of sexual assault to help with their recovery and begins with how the first responders act when they arrive on the scene.
The passing of this new law to protect victims comes just a year after the attorney general helped pass the Preventing Sexual Violence on Campus Act, which set standards for all universities and colleges to prevent and respond to sexual violence. It also made Illinois the first state in the nation to make testing of sexual assault evidence kits mandatory.
Our attorneys at O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates in Joliet will continue to keep you updated on the new Illinois law that makes changes in investigation and prosecution of rape cases. If you or someone you know needs assistance with a sexual assault case, our attorneys are available to provide legal advice and representation if needed. For your free consultation, please call or contact us today.