Landmark legislation signed into law Friday puts in place requirements for law enforcement agencies designed to improve the response to sexual assault crimes and encourage victims to come forward.The law also will address the Illinois State Police’ department’s nearly decade-long backlog of rape kits by removing a barrier in the state’s procurement code to allow for faster hiring of forensic analysts.Additionally, the law makes Illinois the first state in the country to mandate the testing of sexual assault evidence kits.

The new law mandates sexual assault response training for every law enforcement officer in Illinois. It requires police departments and first responders, including 911 centers, to establish victim-centered policies and procedures to help lead to more successful prosecutions of sexual assault crimes.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement the “landmark legislation” was initiated by the Joint Sexual Assault Working Group, which was formed to address the fact the majority of survivors of sexual assault do not report the crime to authorities.The working group, led by Madigan, outgoing Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly and Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault Executive Director Polly Poskin, included members from more than a dozen organizations throughout the state.“Sexual assault is a devastating crime that is rarely reported to law enforcement. Our Working Group spent more than a year taking a comprehensive look at why and how our criminal justice system can better respond, investigate and support survivors,” Madigan said. “Illinois will now require police to undergo specialized training and follow specific protocols for incidents of sexual assault that should encourage more survivors to come forward and receive justice. These are significant changes to improve our response to sexual assault crimes.”Another provision of the law requires hospitals to notify police within four hours of collecting a rape test kit. Law enforcement agencies have 10 days to take possession of the evidence before hospitals would be required to contact the appropriate state’s attorney’s office.

“As a state, we must do everything within our power to ensure victims are supported and that their aggressors are quickly brought to justice,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said in a statement. “We stand with the victims of these malicious crimes. This bill strengthens the policy behind evidence collection and gives the state tools to speed up the testing process to ensure victims have the ability to hold their aggressors accountable and get the justice they deserve.”

State Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, a former prosecutor and sponsor of SB 3096, called the law a “top to bottom effort.”“From providing training to first responders to enabling survivors to receive information about evidence testing, this law represents a top to bottom effort at improving our process for survivors of sexual assaults,” Bennett said.

The law’s chief House sponsor, state Rep. Emily McAsey, D-Lockport, said the changes will be crucial for the recovery of sexual assault victims.“A survivor’s road to recovery following a sexual assault is long, and it begins as soon as first responders arrive on the scene,” McAsey said. “This law is so important to make sure survivors have the support and services they need every step of the way, which is crucial to recovery.”In fiscal year 2015, nearly 9,600 people called the state’s rape crisis center hotlines, 8,900 survivors received in-person services and more than 10,000 children were referred to child advocacy centers for sexual abuse, according to the attorney general’s office.

Here’s more on the key changes to state law, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017:

Law enforcement agencies and 911 centers will be required to put in place evidence-based, trauma-informed, victim-centered policies governing responses to sexual assault.

Law enforcement officers will be required to complete written reports of every sexual assault complaint, regardless of who is reporting the crime and where it occurred.

Victim-sensitive training will be increased for law enforcement investigators, first responders and 911 operators.

Survivors will be able to request updates on the status of the testing of their sexual assault evidence by the state crime lab.

Illinois State Police will be required to respond to status requests unless doing so would compromise or impede an ongoing investigation.

The time period for survivors to consent to the testing of their sexual assault forensic evidence will be extended from 14 days to five years after the assault. Survivors under the age of 18 at the time of the crime will have five years from their 18th birthday to consent to the testing of the evidence.

Attorney General Madigan’s Crime Victim Services Division manages programs that provide assistance to crime victims and service providers. For more information about the Crime Victims Services Division or the rights afforded to survivors of crime, please visit Madigan’s website or call her office’s toll-free Crime Victims’ Assistance Line: 1-800-228-3368 or 1-877-398-1130 (TTY).

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