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Sexual assault bill on Pritzker’s desk seeks to address ‘negative connotation around alcohol-induced cases’ – Chicago Tribune

Last summer season, Kaylyn Ahn was consuming and acknowledges being “pretty inebriated” when a man she’d been speaking to picked her up to go to a good friend’s birthday celebration.

They by no means made it to the celebration. According to Ahn, the person sexually assaulted her within the again seat of his automotive. Ahn stated she “couldn’t have possibly consented in that state.”

Ahn, a first-year pupil at Northwestern University, stayed silent for months earlier than deciding to file a police report. Per week after speaking to police in Skokie, the place she stated the assault occurred, she known as the division to say she needed to press fees.

The police instructed her instances like hers the place she was voluntarily intoxicated have been extraordinarily laborious to prosecute, Ahn stated.

“He said, ‘looking at your case, there’s absolutely no way a prosecutor would pick this up,’” stated Ahn, 18, of Des Plaines. “I was completely devastated. I had gone through months of mental torture.”

Ahn instructed her story in a listening to earlier than state legislators in Springfield this spring in help of a bill now on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk that might make it simpler to prosecute instances like hers.

Sexual assault instances, particularly these like Ahn’s, not often get their day in court docket. In Chicago, 80% to 90% of “sexual harm” studies made to the Chicago Police Department from 2010 to 2019 didn’t lead to an arrest, in accordance to a report from the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.

In some situations, that’s as a result of Illinois legislation solely states that, if no different technique of drive or risk are used, an alleged sufferer impaired by alcohol or medication is deemed unable to give consent when the alleged attacker administers a substance “causing the victim to become unconscious of the nature of the act and this condition was known.”

The bill, which handed with out opposition this spring, goals to clarify that fees will be introduced no matter how the alleged sufferer turned intoxicated or impaired.

“There’s always kind of a negative connotation around alcohol-induced cases, where the survivor themselves was knowingly engaging in drinking, because people are like, ‘Oh, you chose to get drunk,’ ” stated Mallory Littlejohn, authorized director on the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. “What they didn’t choose was to be sexually assaulted.”

The laws covers greater than instances involving alcohol, however that’s the place it can have the best impression, advocates stated.

Carrie Ward, CEO for the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, stated how somebody turned intoxicated shouldn’t be a consider prosecuting sexual assault instances.

“If you became voluntarily intoxicated, it’s still sexual assault,” Ward stated. The laws would change the legislation so such circumstances do “not automatically throw a case out,” she stated.

Anthony Riccio, the Chicago Police Department’s former first deputy superintendent, stated as a detective it was “almost impossible” to get fees permitted when sexual assault instances the place the sufferer was voluntarily intoxicated,

Prosecutors “rarely” took on such instances as a result of they weren’t a “winning case,” Riccio stated, since typically no drive was used and other people tended to blame the sufferer.

If signed into legislation, the laws may maintain defendants, largely males, to a better customary, Riccio stated.

“This could be one of those laws that actually changes behavior and protects people, protects women who are in a very vulnerable condition,” Riccio stated. “It definitely fills a void in the sexual assault laws.”

The Tribune typically doesn’t title victims of sexual assault, however Ahn gave permission to be recognized, as well as to going earlier than legislators along with her story in a public listening to.

Ahn, who labored at state Rep. Mark Walker’s office final summer season, stated she emailed her story to the Arlington Heights Democrat’s office shortly after meeting with police. Meeting a number of instances over winter break, Ahn requested Walker to take authorized motion. The laws on Pritzker’s desk was the consequence.

Walker, the bill’s sponsor, stated he was “stunned” to discover out Illinois legislation left a loophole for instances involving voluntary intoxication.

“We just fixed it so it doesn’t matter who caused the person to be intoxicated or unconscious to the act,” Walker stated. “What matters is someone took advantage of that and committed a criminal offense.”

In an announcement, Pritzker’s office stated the governor has prioritized making Illinois a “safer and more compassionate state for victims and survivors.”

Survivors of sexual assault face a prolonged battle in the event that they intend to press fees in opposition to their attacker. The legislative adjustments would get rid of one potential barrier and positively have the potential to improve the variety of sexual assault instances which might be charged, Littlejohn stated.

Still, current authorized and societal requirements typically make it troublesome for survivors of sexual assault to get justice, advocates stated.

“The challenge continues to be living in a society where victims are often blamed, and their behavior is often questioned,” Ward stated. “The biggest thing to do is believe sexual assault survivors. People really do, overwhelmingly, have nothing to gain.”

Ahn stated testifying earlier than state legislators and getting a bill handed, albeit scary, was “really rewarding,” each for her and future survivors who gained’t have to undergo what she did with police.

“It would be naive for me to say that with this law, everything’s gonna be perfect and the legal system is fixed,” Ahn stated. “That would be impossible.

“But it was a way for me to take back my autonomy,” she stated.

Survivors of sexual assault can name the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or the Chicago rape disaster hotline at 888-293-2080. To discover a rape disaster middle close to you, go to www.icasa.org/crisis-centers.

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