Illinois legislature passes measure addressing rape kit backlog

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Illinois victims can wait up to a year for rape kits to be tested. Now, there?s a move to make sure offenders are prosecuted, even on old cases. (WLS)

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday that states need to improve their response to sexual assault cases and testing of rape evidence kits.

It's estimated more than half of sexual assaults are not reported to police. And when they are, Illinois victims wait months - even up to a year - for the evidence collected, known as a rape kit, to be tested. Now, there's a move to make sure offenders are prosecuted, even on old cases. These national and local efforts help victims of rape heal.

"This has been a deprioritization, okay, period. That needs to be addressed and needs to be reversed," said State Sen. Michael Noland, 22nd District.

"There was no justice for me. And I'm hoping that this bill will give other women the courage to say 'I've been raped, and I want something done about it,'" said Rosa Pickett, a sexual assault survivor.

When Rosa Pickett's attacker tracked her down years after the crime, she went to Robbins police, but her case was too old to prosecute and the evidence from her case was never tested in the backlog of rape kits.

On Wednesday, Illinois legislature passed a measure to allow prosecution 10 years from the evidence being tested, instead of 10 years from the crime.

"Hopefully this will give other women strength to step forward," Pickett said.

And in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, a Senate judiciary subcommittee called for a hearing on rape kit backlogs. Sen. Dick Durbin urged Congress to assist state and local efforts to test thousands backlogged rape kits and prevent future crimes.

"There will be justice, there will be testing, there will be investigation, there will be prosecution and we will not simply get justice for them, but we will ensure that our communities are safer," Madigan said.

"This national hearing, I want to point to the success that we've achieved, but also to the continuing challenge to make sure that we investigate these kits and bring the persons responsible for these crimes to justice," Sen. Durbin said.

Sharmili Majmudar is the executive director of Rape Victim Advocates. She sees progress, but sees much more to do to support victims and aggressively investigate crimes against women.

"We still have a ways to go," Majmudar said. "We cannot just simply rely on this kit as though the kit itself is going to be the solution. It is one piece of how we as a society respond to sexual violence."

Illinois is ahead of many states. It was the first to order the backlog be addressed.

Meanwhile, victims wait and worry if the offenders might be targeting others, or come back after them.

Related Topics:
politicssexual assaultrapevictimslawsIllinois
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