Legislation can be a heavy topic and one that is often difficult to understand. If we take a look into the etymology of the word, we can get a better idea of what the purpose of legislation really is. One of the original meanings of the word law comes from Old Norse and means “things layed out or fixed.” With this meaning, we see that one of the purposes of legislation is to provide guidelines or rules, ones that are fixed and layed out for us to better understand and refer to when needed. In the U.S., we have the power to take part in determining those guidelines and rules through our representatives and senators. We can encourage them to make the changes that are most important to us. To start off Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we take a look at three examples of proposed legislation that will protect and expand the basic rights of sexual assault survivors. We also explore ways that you can take action and make sure these rights are put into practice.
Upcoming bills and their importance
HB 3265: This bill would guarantee confidentiality to any survivor seeking services at a rape crisis center. This confidentiality would be guaranteed, regardless of whether the center provides only sexual assault services or also provides services like domestic violence as well.
This bill may seem like legislators are splitting hairs; however, in 2020, a defendant argued that a survivor was not protected by confidentiality because the center where she received services provided both sexual assault and domestic violence services. He argued that the definition of a rape crisis center states that its “sole purpose is to provide sexual assault services” and because the center where the survivor sought services also provided domestic violence services, she did not qualify for confidentiality. Survivors should always feel comfortable and safe seeking services for their healing and be guaranteed confidentiality, regardless of the scope of services that an organization offers.
HB 63: This bill proposes that the Department of Public Health develop specialized clinics throughout the state to provide affordable healthcare services to women. Some of these services would include annual examinations, postnatal care, and services for STIs.
We know that many survivors of sexual assault are women. It is crucial and a basic human right for them not only to be able to have services available, but services that are also affordable. The impact of sexual assault goes beyond a single act of violence; it lasts a lifetime. Because of this, there is a need for health services throughout the entire life of the survivor.
HB 1736: The Reach Act is a current bill that would enhance education prevention programs throughout Illinois. You might be familiar with Erin’s Law, a law that Illinois passed in 2011. This law mandates that students from preschool through high school receive relevant curricula that would help with the prevention of sexual abuse.
The passing of Erin’s Law has been an incredible start to prioritizing this type of education for students. However, The Reach Act expands on Erin’s Law, improving the AIDS training section of School Code, adding more inclusion of diverse gender identities, and prohibiting the use of gender stereotypes, just to name some of the amendments.
Looking for ways to take action?
As advocates, we always support survivors as best we can; but without creating change in our laws and policies, we cannot give them the justice that they truly need. We know that it takes time for change to happen and that results do not often come quickly. This is why it is important that more people join the fight for survivors’ rights. The more people that support these bills, the more representation there will be, and the sooner we will see the results that bring even more hope for survivors.
If you are interested in contacting your local senators or representatives to support any of the new legislation listed above, please use this link to find your local representative, their contact information and district, and the state district map.
ICASA (Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault) works tirelessly to ensure bills are written, to advocate that laws are passed to support survivors of sexual assault and abuse, and to remove barriers to services. The ICASA website provides a comprehensive resource of these laws that protect and support survivors. An example of some of these laws are:
- Crime Victims’ Rights
- Statute of Limitations
- SASETA (Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act) rights involving emergency medical care and treatment at no cost
- Civil No Contact Orders
- Crime Victim Compensation Program
ICASA’s website, found here, will also provide the most updated legislative initiatives each year so you can participate locally with your representatives on behalf of survivors.
Join us all month as we participate in Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) with weekly blog posts, daily posts on our social media, and two new podcast episodes. We can end sexual violence. You can help us.