IL passes bills expanding protection for sexual assault victims

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Information provided by the Governor’s Office

CHICAGO, Ill. (June 16, 2022) – Governor JB Pritzker signed two bills Thursday aimed at making medical and legal care for victims of sexual assault broader and more accessible. HB5441 amends Illinois Criminal Code to specify that someone is unable to give consent when intoxicated, even when the accused assaulter didn’t provide the substance that intoxicated them. SB3023 expands where survivors can access treatment and for how long, as well as requiring Federally Qualified Health Centers to provide medical forensic services by trained professionals.

HB5441 details

The expanded definition of consent outlined under HB5441 provides that the accused abuser knew or reasonably should have known the victim was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, among others, advocated for this change to provide a clearer path for prosecution against perpetrators of sexual assault on impaired victims. Many sexual assault cases are thrown out due to negative perceptions around voluntary drinking or drug use, preventing victims from seeking justice against their attacker.

The issue was brought to State Rep. Mark Walker’s (D-Chicago) attention by Kaylyn Ahn, an 18-year-old who suffered a sexual assault while inebriated and was told the case likely would not be prosecuted for that reason. Walker, whose office Ahn had previously worked in, sponsored the legislation after hearing her story. Ahn testified in front on legislators in Springfield in support of the bill.

“I am telling my story because my pain is not an individual loss but a systemic failure of a legal system that has time and again failed to protect us,” Kaylyn Ahn said. “No matter what you were wearing, what you were drinking, or whether you were in a relationship with them, rape is never your fault. In signing this bill, we are listening to the power of survivors.”

SB3023 details

The amendments to the Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act (SASETA) outlined in SB3023 are the result of recommendations made by the Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Services Implementation Task Force, a group formed to examine the healthcare needs of sexual assault survivors and determine necessary policy changes. SASETA governs the health care that hospitals, and now qualified health centers, are required to provide victims to of sexual assault.

This new legislation allows survivors to access care under the act for 180 days, doubling the time window and extending access to those unable to receive care in the first few months after an incident. SB3203 guarantees that a victim seeking medical treatment will have access to a trained medical forensic examiner, as well as other medical staff specifically trained to best care for victims of sexual assault. Trauma-informed sexual assault treatment is important to prevent further distress for the victim, which can deter victims from reporting an assault or pursuing or continuing treatment. Training is also key to give providers the skills to collect potential evidence without contamination or destruction of that evidence.

The bill also allows victims to decline to bill their health insurance provider for the cost of emergency care if they themselves are not the primary policy holder. This allows those seeking treatment after abuse from partners or family members who share in their insurance policy to maintain confidentiality and avoid additional danger.

“We cannot have a justice system that re-traumatizes those forced to utilize it,” said Governor Pritzker. “To survivors in our state: there are no words to lessen the unimaginable trauma and pain you’ve been through. I want you to know that your Governor hears you. When you speak out, our systems will respond. It is our responsibility to give you the autonomy and justice that you deserve.”

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