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Pritzker signs bills protecting sexual assault victims

 Gov. JB Pritzker signs
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Gov. JB Pritzker signs two bills into law aimed at protecting victims of sexual assault during a signing ceremony Thursday in Chicago.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed two bills into law Thursday aimed at protecting the victims of sexual assault.

One of those new laws allows victims to press charges, even if they were voluntarily intoxicated at the time of the attack. Another 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.

“We cannot have a justice system that re-traumatizes the people who need to utilize it,” Pritzker said at a bill signing ceremony in Chicago. “Yet that's been the reality for far too long.”

House Bill 5441 closes what many people called a “loophole” in existing law that prevented victims from filing charges if they were intoxicated at the time of the attack but the intoxicating substance was not administered by the accused individual.

It inserts new language into the law that says a person is unable to knowingly give consent when intoxicated if they are “unconscious of the nature of the act, and this condition was known or reasonably should have been known by the accused,” even if the accused individual did not administer the substance.

That language was inspired by a young woman, Kaylyn Anh, who spoke at the bill signing about how she was raped by someone she knew in July 2021 after she had voluntarily become intoxicated at a friend’s house.

Three months after the attack, she said, she reported it to police but was told that they would not investigate the incident because, under Illinois law, it did not qualify as rape.

“He told me there was absolutely no way the prosecutor would ever pick up my case,” she said. “When I asked him if there were any other legal options to pursue, he said, ‘The only thing you can do now is just try to not let it happen again and move on.’ This is my defiant refusal to do so.”

Senate Bill 3023 amends the Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act, which governs the health care that hospitals are required to provide to victims of sexual assault. It doubles the amount of time a victim can access care under the act to 180 days and guarantees that victims seeking treatment will have access to a trained medical forensic examiner as well as other medical staff trained to care for victims of sexual assault.

It also authorizes the Department of Public Health to designate up to six Federally Qualified Health Centers, located in geographically diverse areas of the state, to develop sexual assault treatment plans and to offer on-site services during their regular operating hours. It also requires them to employ a sexual assault nurse examiner coordinator.

“Survivors of sexual assault need the system to work a lot better for them to seek and receive health care services as they process the trauma they’ve been through,” state Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, one of the cosponsors of the bill, said in a statement. “This measure provides a significant improvement by removing costs, bills, and increases the timeline during which survivors can access treatment.”

Both bills passed unanimously out of both chambers of the General Assembly earlier this year.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.