Sexual assault victims are getting the attention they need and deserve from Illinois’ law enforcers.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan this week created a statewide task force to improve investigations and prosecutions of sexual assaults – an acknowledgment that there is a “systemic structural breakdown” and the state is failing many victims of sexual assault. Creation of the task force raises awareness of the problem, which will help in solving it.
Task force members need to use their expertise to identify the obstacles that prevent prosecution of the vast majority of cases reported to police, and figure out ways to improve results.
One obstacle already identified is attitude. That likely explains why some counties have high, successful prosecution rates and others have prosecution percentages in the single digits. Training the police and prosecutors and closer monitoring of these cases should help immensely.
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Another obstacle is resources. Madigan’s father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, introduced legislation this week seeking a $6 million funding increase to the crime labs to process rape kits and other evidence. We don’t know how he came up with that number, and whether lawmakers can find that extra money in the budget even if they want.
With or without more funding, crime labs have to get evidence processed; lack of funding cannot be used as an excuse for letting rape kits sit untested for months and even years.