We need your help to expand sexual assault evidence collection sites during the COVID-19 crisis.

Did you know that survivors can only access rape kits through a number of Chicago emergency rooms? During the COVID-19 crisis, this puts an enormous barrier on access and justice. We need you to tell Springfield to protect survivors’ options during the pandemic by expanding evidence collection sites.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, survivors of sexual assault have been fearful, hesitant, and sometimes unable to access care and evidence collection in the ER. Under the Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act (SASETA), survivors’ only option for a forensic exam and evidence collection is to go to an ER. Without evidence collection, the rates of successful prosecution drop significantly, creating damaging outcomes for the individual survivor and our communities at large.

Resilience has noticed a 49% decrease in calls from our partner hospitals since the start of the pandemic, a trend consistent with many other rape crisis centers across the state. Meanwhile, Howard Brown’s sexual health walk-in located in Chicago has seen its volume of sexual assault cases double. Consistent with anecdotal evidence, most of the survivors seeking care at Howard Brown have reported fearfulness of exposure to COVID-19 at ERs and others have said they have been turned away.

We are proposing legislation that would allow, in times of a declaration of a public health emergency, certain health centers like Howard Brown Health to perform evidence collection using kits provided by Illinois State Police.

These centers would be required to abide by the strict guidelines of SASETA, including:

  • meeting or exceeding the current training requirements for emergency department medical providers;
  • having cooperative partnerships with pediatric and emergency department facilities, as well as rape crisis centers like Resilience;
  • abiding by the jurisdiction of all relevant authorities to allow monitoring and for chain-of-custody requirements;
  • not charging survivors for any treatment and providing sexual assault vouchers for follow-up care.

Survivors need options. Given the significant drop in survivors accessing care in our partner emergency rooms since the COVID-19 pandemic, Resilience has a responsibility to advocate for safer options for survivors to seek medical care and evidence collection. We know this drop is not indicative of sexual assault not happening.

Please call your representative and house leadership today and let them know that survivors need options. 

You can also help by urging your representatives to take action on social media. See below for sample posts.

  • Tell Springfield to protect survivors during #COVID and other crises! Join Resilience and our allies in advocating for expanded evidence collection sites #SASETA #COVID19 #sexualassault #SurvivorsNeedOptions
  • #SASETA must be adapted now! Support survivors and frontline workers by demanding expanded evidence collection sites during #COVID19 and other crises. Call @RepTerriBryant1 at 217-782-0387 to make your voice heard! #sexualassault #SANEnurses #medicalcare #rapekit #SurvivorsNeedOptions
  • ERs may feel risky right now due to #COVID, and survivors of #sexualharm must be able to access safe sites for evidence collection. Tell #Springfield to amend #SAESTA and expand their access and promote justice! #SurvivorsNeedOptions

Action Alert, CAASE, COVID-19, evidence collection, Howard Brown Health, Public Policy, SASETA, SurvivorsNeedOptions