The crime is frightening and so are the statistics: Nearly 1 in 5 women will be raped during their lifetimes. One in 71 men will be a victim of sexual assault.
That’s what we know. The numbers likely are much higher because sexual assault is an underreported crime. Of every 100 rapes committed, only five to 20 of them are reported, according to a 2012 study. Only 0.4 to 5.4 are prosecuted and 0.2 to 5.2 result in a conviction.
Those sad statistics mean the perpetrators of sexual assault probably are still walking around, stalking their next victims.
“Victims of these kinds of crime need special attention,” said state Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, who is a sponsor of legislation meant to encourage victims of sexual assault to report the crime to authorities. “You can’t put yourself in their position unless you’ve been there.
“Victims don’t necessarily want to move forward, whether it’s because of embarrassment or the fear of facing their attacker again. We need to do everything we can to help victims.”
Senate Bill 3096 also has local state Reps. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, and Brian Stewart, R-Freeport, among its many sponsors. The measure passed the Senate 57-0 and is in the House Judiciary Committee.
The bill has five key provisions:
— It would require police and 911 call centers to adopt policies for responding to sexual assaults that are more sensitive toward victims.
— Law enforcement officers would be required to complete a written report of every complaint, regardless of where it occurred or who is reporting it.
— Victim-sensitive training will be increased for law enforcement investigators, first responders and 911 operators.
— It would extend the time period for victims to consent to the release of their forensic evidence kit for testing to five years after the assault. Victims under the age of 18 at the time of the offense will have five years from their 18th birthday to consent to its release.
— Victims would be allowed to request the status of their rape kit testing. Requests must be honored unless doing so would compromise or impede an ongoing investigation.
The bill is a product of work done by the Joint Sexual Assault Working Group formed in March 2015 by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault Executive Director Polly Poskin, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly.
“We have talked about this within the state coalition and I think it will be very helpful. Right now the lack of consistent training on sexual assault and trauma only feeds into myths about rape survivors,” said Maureen Mostacci, executive director of Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling. “If the fact that in some communities a report is not written means that the officer is making his or her own decision, without detectives and follow-up, that case will go nowhere.