Getting cops and prosecutors to respond to rape allegations is like playing “whack-a-mole,” the Illinois attorney general says. Attorney General Lisa Madigan says every time one obstacle was overcome, another appeared – so she is convening a Working Group to Combat Sexual Assault. “The members of this group will focus on ways that we can address the challenges in the areas of medical care and evidence collection, investigations and prosecutions,” she said in announcing the group’s formation.
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Madigan says few of the rape victims who appear at rape crisis centers end up reporting their incident to police. She says they fear that their complaint will not be taken seriously, and sometimes that fear is justified.
Polly Poskin of the Illinois Coalition against Sexual Assault says one problem is the delay between the offense and the processing of the evidence. “It can be demoralizing to the investigator, and it can be a deterrent to victims staying invested in the case. So the turnaround time has to improve in our Illinois state crime labs,” she said.
In addition to speedier processing of evidence, the group is interested in:
Requiring evidence, once collected by medical personnel, to be sent directly to the State Police crime lab, thereby solving the problem of this evidence sitting in police departments awaiting action.
Making sure victims are not billed for their hospital visits.
Making sure medical providers are trained in evidence collection.
Members of the group include representatives of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the Illinois Sheriffs Association, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, the Illinois State Police, Illinois Hospital Association, Cook County sheriff, Chicago Police Department, rape victims’ advocates, the Center for the Prevention of Abuse, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Illinois Department of Public Health.