CHICAGO — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, joined by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly and the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, announced a new joint working group seeking to improve prosecution rates of sexual assault cases throughout Illinois.
The Sexual Assault Working Group was created to address statistics that show sexual assault survivors are not reporting the crimes to authorities. Studies suggest that only 5 percent to 20 percent of rapes are reported to law enforcement.
The group will seek to address challenges in the criminal justice and health care systems that discourage victims from reporting sexual assault. The group will also focus on efforts to improve the response to sexual assault cases with the goal of improving victim safety as well as offender accountability.
“Victims do not report these crimes because they do not believe they will receive justice,” Madigan said. “But each of us has a legal and moral obligation to take these cases seriously and to treat victims with compassion and dignity. It is only after we build a better, more responsive criminal justice system that we will begin to see more people coming forward and ensure that justice is being served.”
Members of the joint working group include the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the Illinois Sheriffs Association, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Hospital Association, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, the Chicago Police Department, Rape Victims Advocates, the Center for the Prevention of Abuse, the Illinois Department of Health Care and Family Services and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The group will identify and seek to implement strategies such as supportive training or statutory changes that will, among other goals:
- Ensure that medical providers are trained in evidence collection;
- Increase the number of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners throughout the state;
- Improve the efficiency of evidence processing by forensic crime labs;
- Ensure survivors are not billed for sexual assault forensic exams and have access to follow-up medical care;
- Train first responders and investigators to initiate and properly conduct victim-sensitive interviews and investigations;
- Identify strategies to ensure follow-up investigations on sexual assault kits that return a DNA match;
- Establish and provide training in best practices for reviewing and charging of sexual assault cases;
- Improve communication between investigators, victims and advocates; and
- Develop protocols for communication with victims in compliance with the Crime Victims Bill of Rights.