Governor Pat Quinn today signed three new laws designed to provide greater protections to Illinois women from sexual assault and domestic violence. Earlier this week, the governor signed a new law to protect women from stalking. Today's action is the latest by Governor Quinn to support crime victims and boost protections of women.
"Violence against women has occurred in small towns, urban neighborhoods and college campuses," Governor Quinn said. "These new laws will help us hold the predators accountable as well as prevent behavior which can lead to sexual assaults."
Governor Quinn signed House Bill 1645, sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), to create the Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Fund. An initiative of Lt. Governor Sheila Simon and the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA), the law is designed to support sexual assault prevention efforts and aid the recovery of victims. According to Illinois State Police Uniform Crime Reports, about 15 rapes occur each day but experts agree that only one-third of all rapes are reported. In 2010, 18,349 survivors of sexual assault or sexual abuse were served by the hotlines of ICASA.
Under the new law, grants would be made to provide community-based assistance to victims of sexual assault and for activities to prevent sexual assault from happening. Administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services, the fund will be supported through the new Live Adult Entertainment Facility Surcharge. Club operators will be required to pay a flat surcharge on their gross receipts or impose a $3 surcharge on each patron upon admission. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2013.
"I thank Governor Quinn for standing up for rape victims and crisis centers across the state," Lt. Governor Simon said. "This new revenue stream will help offset cuts that threatened critical services. When a sexual assault victim goes to a police station or a survivor calls a hotline, we need trained staff ready to respond. This bill helps to keep lights on and doors open, jobs filled and responders trained."
"This law is a victory for rape victims and the dedicated rape crisis centers who work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in communities across the state to provide services to survivors of sexual assault." said Polly Poskin, ICASA Executive Director. "They will benefit from this innovative and important funding stream. We applaud Governor Quinn for signing this groundbreaking bill." Poskin noted that Chicago will be hosting the National Sexual Assault Conference from August 22-24.
"Gas taxes go for road-building; gambling fees fund addiction services. This is based on the same principle," said Sen. Hutchinson. "Let's work towards a society that understands that violence against women is totally unacceptable. Finding a way to fund these services is critical."
Governor Quinn also signed House Bill 5689 to create the Eradicate Domestic Violence Task Force, sponsored by Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Chicago) and Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). An initiative of Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, the law paves the way for development of a statewide voluntary prevention course for high school students based on the Step Back program.
Step Back was developed by Sarah's Inn, a not-for-profit that set up a pilot program at Oak Park and River Forest High School. It consists of a daily, 9 week, 45 minute session course designed to increase awareness of domestic violence, sexual assault, date rape, bullying and suicide.
Under the new law, the Task Force will be comprised of 27 experts and advocates who will and report to the General Assembly by April 1, 2013. The law is effective immediately.
"I am thrilled the governor signed this bill," Clerk Brown said. "Eradicating domestic violence is dear to my heart: I was a victim of domestic violence as a teen. If we can show our youth alternatives to violence and teach them self-esteem, we can help them understand that no one should be a victim." The statewide program will be administered and staffed by Clerk of the Court employees.
"The innovative Step Back initiative is already changing behavior - one student at a time - at my alma mater, Oak Park and River Forest High School," Rep. Lilly said. "These teens are getting lessons to last a lifetime."
"We applaud these actions to make violence prevention a priority," said Regina Botterill, Executive Director of Sarah's Inn, a 30-year old agency that helps battered women in Chicago's Austin neighborhood and 22 suburban towns. "Sarah's Inn and all involved with the Step Back program at Oak Park and River Forest High School are honored to be part of the process."
In addition, Governor Quinn signed House Bill 5264 to allow prosecutors to use prior domestic violence offenses as evidence in first- and second-degree murder cases involving domestic violence. Sponsored by Rep. Art Turner (D-Chicago) and Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-Crystal Lake), the bill passed unanimously in both chambers and was supported by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. It is effective immediately.
Earlier this week, Governor Quinn signed House Bill 5922, sponsored by Rep William Cunningham (D-Chicago) and Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), to expedite the process of serving "no-contact" notices to stalkers. Law enforcement authorities and process servers will now be able to use a shorter form to stop stalkers in their tracks. It also allows law enforcement officials to detain a respondent for a reasonable time to prepare and serve a short form "no-contact" order. Proposed by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, the bill -- which passed unanimously in both chambers -- amends the Illinois Stalking No Contact Order Act and Civil No Contact Order Act.
HB 5922 takes effect Jan. 1, 2013.