Illinois law expands protections for sexual violence survivors in the military

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Published: May. 19, 2022 at 2:03 PM CDT|Updated: May. 19, 2022 at 2:11 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill into law Thursday creating new protections for survivors of sexual violence in the military. The Democratic governor and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle believe survivors of military sexual violence deserve stronger protection when they leave the service.

This legislation extends the authority of military protection orders beyond military locations to provide survivors with full protection regardless of where they are. Illinois State Police will be responsible for keeping records of orders of protection issued by a military tribunal. Sponsors also want perpetrators to be held accountable for violent actions.

“For far too long, our service members who’ve survived sexual violence have not had the protection they deserve,” Pritzker said. “And far too often, sexual violence in the military goes underreported due to inadequate support and fears of retaliation.”

The governor said Illinois will lead the nation by prioritizing the safety and well-being of survivors while holding perpetrators accountable. Pritzker also said he was thankful the lead sponsors of the law, Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago) and Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Aurora), could provide survivors of military sexual violence the compassion, support, and justice they deserve.

“As a U.S. Army veteran, I understand the importance of protecting the members of our armed forces,” Munoz said. “This new law will help fight sexual and domestic violence within the military to protect airmen, marines, and soldiers across Illinois.”

Members of the Illinois National Guard will receive additional protections under this law. If service members are survivors or victims of sexual violence, the state will protect them both as service members and civilians. Major General Rich Neely said this law will improve efforts to end sexual assault and harassment within the military and the Illinois National Guard. Neely said this effort by Pritzker and state lawmakers is a signal of tremendous support for soldiers and airmen.

“Everyone has the right to be and feel safe at work, at home, and in their communities,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “Prioritizing support for our women veterans and expanding protections for survivors of sexual violence is how we uplift that mission, and this landmark legislation shows that we stand with them.”

Survivors will also be able to receive added protections for employment while they recover from the sexual violence. This plan was personal for Kifowit who served as a Marine. Kifowit noted that she is acutely aware of the struggles the military faces in addressing sexual assault and harassment within its ranks.

“This legislation gives both the military and the state another tool to combat the problem,” Kifowit said. “The governor signing this legislation into law sends a strong message that victims of military sexual assault will be protected.”

The Pritzker administration worked with military sexual trauma survivors to ensure they have the same rights and protections as civilian sexual assault survivors. They explained this law wouldn’t be possible without working with civilian sexual assault prevention and response organizations to create an optional reporting system outside the National Guard.

The governor’s office also thanked those organizations for improving educational efforts to help victims and survivors of military sexual assault be aware of services available for them.

“ICASA supports changes to Illinois law that provide additional protections for survivors of sexual assault serving in the military and enhanced enforcement of protective orders issued by military tribunals,” added Carrie Ward, CEO of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “ICASA promotes broad access to all available services and options for survivors in their respective communities.”

Senate Bill 257 took effect immediately.

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