Grant aims to train law enforcement in dealing with sex assault survivors

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About 95 percent of sex crime victims never go to authorities, said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. (WLS)

Sexual abuse victims in Illinois are expected to see a change in the way law enforcement responds to calls for help, the I-Team has learned.

New training procedures are being put in place for 911 operators, patrol officers and other responders -- aimed at ensuring victims don't suffer in silence -- thanks to a new federal grant.

About 95 percent of sex crime victims never go to authorities, said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. From teenage boys molested at the hands of a trusted coach or big name politician to women who are date raped, they are often silent victims.

"The numbers are pathetic when it comes to people who actually come forward," Madigan said.

Nearly 400 rapes are reported to police every month in Illinois, an astonishingly large number that at the same time is incredibly small because most victims don't report the crime.

"The vast majority, it could be as many as 95, 85 percent of survivors never come forward to law enforcement and the only way to change that is to make sure law enforcement understands what they are going through and is responsive to their needs and is supportive of them and is truly seeking justice for them," Madigan said.

The U.S. Justice Department has sent Illinois a $750,000, three-year grant for better training of law enforcement and new procedures responding to survivors of sexual assault crimes.

"What this training is going to do is to make sure people who are dealing with survivors of sexual assault understand what they're going through, understand what the response is, and can therefore respond appropriately," Madigan said.

The goal is victim-centered treatment - from the voice on the other end of that first 911 call to officers and emergency responders.

"That's what we hear over and over from survivors, that they are blamed, that they are made to feel as if this is their fault, that they didn't respond appropriately when in fact and most of the time what has likely happened is that they've gone into survival mode," Madigan said.

College campuses are especially vulnerable.

The I-Team confirmed that federal authorities have opened 12 cases at seven Illinois universities after allegations that sex abuse investigations have been mishandled.

Currently, 277 similar cases remain open on campuses across the country. The civil rights section of the U.S. Education Department is now looking at possible Title IX violations because of how universities handled sexual assault investigations.

The I-Team first reported on this 2.5 years ago. The campus data is still dismal: one in five women is raped while in college, but only one in 20 college women report it.
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