SPRINGFIELD (WCIA) — A bill designed to make sure victims of assault have time to report abuse is awaiting the governor’s signature. Lawmakers and advocates hope the bill encourages more people to come forward after an assault occurs.
The measure looks to make sure people who commit sexual crimes don’t get off the hook. Advocates and lawmakers have been working to get the bill passed for years, and now they say it’s time for survivors to win.
“It essentially lifts the statute of limitations for someone who was sexually assaulted to report that assault and that is so important for victims,” said Carrie Ward, Executive Director for the IL Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA).
Right now, if a victim reports an assault within three years, the alleged attacker can be prosecuted within ten years.
“To have an arbitrary timeline that says, if you don’t report by this time, it’s like it never happened, just isn’t fair to victims,” said Ward.
Advocates said it is often difficult for people who have lived through the assault to speak about it after it happens. “It’s not uncommon for folks to feel a lot of shame, self-doubt about the situation and what happened. They may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and often, want to pull away and disassociate from the experience,” said Rexann Whorton, UIS Women’s Center program director.
Representative Keith Wheeler led the way on the bill which passed both chambers unanimously. Supporters said lawmakers sent a strong message by standing behind it.
“There aren’t statutes of limitations for crimes that we consider very serious,” said Whorton. “There’s no statute of limitations for murder, right? That is a very serious crime, so when we say that no matter what, when a person chooses to come forward, we are going to investigate this and consider this for prosecution, I think is really powerful.”
Wheeler said it was also important to pass given all the technology available to help solve decades-old cases. The measure takes effect in January.