Nobody needs to go through a sexual assault to comprehend that it’s an extremely traumatic experience. Sexual assault leaves a person with both physical and emotional scars, but until now, it also could leave them with a bill from the hospital.
Earlier this week Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill that would prevent hospitals from billing rape and sexual assault survivors for the costs associated with processing their medical forensic exams. Prior to the legislation, survivors of sexual assault were often billed for the costs associated with testing the rape kit. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said those costs potentially deterred survivors form coming forward, which made it much less likely they’d ever receive justice.
“I strongly encourage anyone who is sexually assaulted to go quickly to a hospital emergency room for necessary care and to collect evidence of the crime,” Madigan said. “This law assures that in the aftermath of a sexual assault, a survivor will not be sent a bill for those critical ER services that play an important role in helping law enforcement make an arrest and work to achieve justice for the survivor.”
The new law brings the state in compliance with the federal Violence Against Women Act of 2013, which requires that states can’t bill survivors for rape kit testing if they want to receive federal funds.
The new measure will go into effect on January 1, 2016.
Illinois Getting Tough on Sexual Assault
This isn’t the first bill that Gov. Rauner has signed recently in regards to helping sexual assault victims find justice. Earlier this month, the governor signed House Bill 369, which delayed the current 10-year statute of limitations in sexual assault cases pending completion of a rape kit test.
The current backlog of testing rape kits in Illinois is shocking, as estimates put the number at over 400,000 untested kits. Prior to the extension, if a predator’s sample went untested for 10 years, he would never face prosecution for the crime. Now, although they still may have to wait, there’s a much higher likelihood that a victim will see their aggressor brought to justice.
Related sources: ABC7 Chicago, FW-Chicago