CHICAGO, Ill. (WMBD) — A law effective Thursday has closed the loophole in Illinois’ justice system allowing for a sexual assault to go unprosecuted if the victim was voluntarily intoxicated.
Gov. JB Pritzker joined lawmakers, medical staff, advocates, and statehouse staffer Kaylyn Ahn for a solemn event Thursday morning at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, at which time he signed House Bill 5441 and Senate Bill 3023 into law.
HB 5441 expands the definition of consent in Illinois law. Under this law, if the accused abuser knew or reasonably should have known the victim was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, regardless of whether the victim chose to consume those voluntarily or involuntarily.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’ve had a beer, a shot, or five, that’s your choice. But the assault was not, and we will no longer tolerate a justice system that confuses the two,” said Pritzker.
Additionally, SB 3023 expands the window of time in which a survivor can access trauma-informed healthcare and support services from 90 days to 180 days. It also amends the Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act to allow victims to receive services without using insurance when needed to maintain confidentiality.
Statehouse staffer Kaylyn Ahn spoke on the importance of these bills to survivors of sexual assault. Ahn was raped but unable to file a police report but was denied, because she had chosen to be intoxicated that night. When she tried to report the incident, she said a law enforcement officer told her to “try to not let it happen again, and move on.”
Ahn was able to bring this to the lawmakers she worked with, and the bills were drafted. Statewide sponsors included Rep. Mark Walker (D-Chicago), Sen. Anne Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights), Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest), and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago).
Cassidy has been an outspoken advocate for sexual assault survivors. She said while this law represents progress, it also represents past failures.
“Every time we make a change to these laws… it represents someone who was failed by our laws,” said. Cassidy.
The bill signing event was solemn, with several teary eyes behind the podium. The emotions underscored the gravity of this bill. To survivors, Ahn had this message.
“No matter what you were wearing, what you were drinking, whether you were in a relationship with him–rape is never your fault.”
Pritzker, Cassidy, and all who spoke had the same message. They said that these bills will not only send a message to potential perpetrators, but they will serve as a promise to survivors that justice will be served.
“To sexual assault survivors across our state: there are no words to lessen the unimaginable pain and trauma that you’ve been through. And I want you to know that I hear you. and the General Assembly hears you,” said Pritzker.
Both laws are effective immediately upon signing.