One of the greatest callings we as a society have is to protect the innocent and to protect the victims. So we have a special obligation to victims of sex crimes to understand, respect and support their needs.
When an estimated one in 10 is willing to come forward and tell police in excruciating detail how they were attacked in the most personal way, our law enforcement community must ensure the victim’s need for justice is honored. Just more than a year ago News-Democrat reporters published Violation of Trust, which showed prosecutors from 2005 to 2013 failed to pursue 7 of 10 sex felonies in the 32 southernmost counties in Illinois. There were 6,744 cases, so 4,721 victims put themselves out there and did not get justice.
St. Clair County’s record was worse than average, with 82 percent of the reported cases not being prosecuted. State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly aggressively went after the problem, obtained a $1.95 million federal grant and was tapped to be part of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s task force to address the problem.
The task force recently announced some solutions, including statewide training for police. They are contained in Senate Bill 3096
“The act of sexual assault can inflict horrific trauma upon a victim,” Kelly said. “We have to acknowledge sexual assault victims are too often re-traumatized by their experience with criminal justice because the response to victims does not take into account how trauma can impact the actions of victims in ways that are very different than other crimes.”
The bill outlines care for victims, written standards for handling cases, timely reporting and other measures intended to ensure more victims find justice when they seek it and fewer cases fail because police fell short. Ultimately, Madigan said the moves should encourage more sex victims to come forward because they will have a better chance that their reliving of the attack will lead to justice and possibly stop another attack.
More than a year was spent documenting the problem after one young woman came forward to talk about how badly her case was handled when she was 14. We urge state lawmakers to do their part and back these standards to fulfill our obligation to these victims.