Information on Survivor Options and Rights
Survivors have options on their healing and safety after sexual assault. Below you will find information and resources on a variety of options. You don’t have to navigate these systems alone. Our advocates can assist and accompany you during the process.
- Medical Treatment Options After Sexual Assault:
- Abortion Resources
- Surviving Sexual Violence During COVID-19
Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act (SASETA)
In the aftermath of sexual violence, your physical wellbeing is important. Illinois law requires emergency rooms across the state offer a consistent standard of care in treatment options and evidence collection.
SASETA, 410 ILCS 70, is an Illinois law that has been in effect since 1987. It mandates that all hospitals provide either transfer services or hospital emergency and forensic services to sexual assault victims.
Hospitals providing emergency and forensic services to sexual assault survivors must offer to provide:
Sexual assault is prioritized in the emergency department. Within minutes of a sexual assault patient’s arrival, they should be moved to a closed environment that ensures privacy.
Patients being treated for sexual assault should receive oral and written information concerning pregnancy resulting from sexual assault, emergency contraception, and the indications and counterindications and risks associated with the use of emergency contraception. They are also required to make available or provide information on how emergency contraception can be accessed under the written order of a qualified healthcare provider.
Note that emergency contraception is available over the counter for anyone at any age in Illinois. More information on accessing emergency contraception outside of the emergency room can be found here.
Assessment and treatment for STIs and HIV should also be provided. Medications are to be made available to the patient for treatment at the hospital and after discharge if determined to be necessary. This includes, but is not limited to: HIV prophylaxis (within 72 hours of the sexual assault), emergency contraception (within 72 hours of the sexual assault), and STI prophylaxis as deemed appropriate by the attending physician.
The patient should receive oral and written information about all medications dispensed, possible contraindications of such medication or disease resulting from sexual assault in addition to information on the need for a follow-up exam and laboratory tests to determine the presence or absence of pregnancy, STIs and HIV.
Evidence Collection and Notification of Law Enforcement
Illinois law requires medical providers to notify law enforcement if they are treating an injury as a result of a crime or firearm. While emergency rooms (ER) are required to make this notification, they are prohibited from sharing personally identifying information without patient consent. Police will respond in person to generate and provide a police report. The patient can choose whether or not to speak to police or only to receive a copy of the report from the nurse and follow-up with police at a later time.
All patients who enter the emergency department within 7 days of the sexual assault are required to be offered an Illinois State Police Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit (ISPECK). If the patient consents to the ISPECK but chooses not to release it immediately, law enforcement must hold the ISPECK for 10 years while the patient decides whether or not to have the evidence tested.
Anyone at any age can consent to treatment and the evidence collection kit related to a sexual assault. Consenting to evidence collection is two parts: consent to the collection of evidence and consent to release the evidence for testing or holding. A minor under 13 years of age requires a parent or legal guardian, investigating law enforcement officer, or DCFS representative to release the kit to law enforcement for testing.
People with disabilities do not need a guardian present to consent for medical treatment, evidence collection, or release of evidence for testing for sexual assault in the ER. However, if a survivor is unable to consent to the release of evidence for testing, an investigating law enforcement officer may release the evidence if the guardian is unavailable or unwilling to do so.
As of January 1 2023, the above treatment and evidence collection, referred to as the medical forensic exam, is required to be performed by a Qualified Medical Provider (QMP). A QMP means a board-certified child abuse pediatrician, board-eligible child abuse pediatrician, a sexual assault forensic examiner, or a sexual assault nurse examiner or SANE.
Crisis Intervention Support/Medical Advocacy
The patient should receive the option to have an advocate called by hospital personnel for appropriate counseling that provides emotional support and confidentiality. Many hospitals partner with agencies like Resilience to provide crisis intervention counseling in the ER and follow-up counseling and advocacy resources. A list of Resilience partner hospitals can be found here.
Follow-up Care and Prohibition on Medical Bills for Emergency Care
The patient should never receive a bill for any services provided in the ER as an outpatient. This includes all bills related to a hospital or health care professional furnishing hospital emergency and/or forensic services, an ambulance provider furnishing transportation to a sexual assault survivor, a hospital, health care professional or laboratory providing follow-up healthcare or a pharmacy dispensing prescribed medications to any sexual assault survivor.
If the patient has listed health insurance, the hospital will first attempt to receive payment from their insurance agent. Whatever the health insurance company will not pay, or if the patient does not have health insurance listed, the IL Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services will reimburse the hospital for any procedures, medications and follow-up tests. The prohibition on billing does not include inpatient hospitalization.
As of January 1, 2023, sexual assault survivors who are not the primary policyholder for health insurance may opt out of billing private insurance. When the survivor opts out, the bill is sent to DHFS Sexual Assault Emergency Treatment Program for reimbursement.
A patient is also eligible for up to 180 days of free follow-up care after their emergency room visit if they return to the hospital emergency room or by utilizing the sexual assault emergency treatment program ‘voucher’.
Hospitals must issue a sexual assault emergency treatment program ‘voucher’ to patients treated for sexual assault and/or abuse upon discharge. This voucher is generated by the hospital through the IDPH MEDICAL ELECTRONIC DATA INTERCHANGE (MEDI) SYSTEM. A copy of the voucher should be placed in the patient’s medical record. The hospital shall provide a copy of the voucher to the sexual assault survivor after discharge upon request.
The emergency room isn’t the only option for medical treatment after a sexual assault. While the mandate of SASETA only applies to emergency rooms currently, medical treatment options are available in health clinics and private physicians.
We’re disappointed and disgusted with the news from the Supreme Court that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, ending our constitutional right to abortion. This is a massive regression of progress that generations have fought tirelessly for. Millions of people will lose access to abortion care, not only impacting those individuals, their families, and communities but our entire country. We will feel the ripple effect of this decision’s consequences deeply. This is a setback for all of us: for survivors, for our community, and for each of us who support a society in which a person has autonomy over their own body.
Abortion access and sexual violence are intrinsically linked, and losing access to abortion can compound the trauma of sexual assault. The violation of being assaulted combined with the legal necessity to carry the baby to term can create lasting damage both mentally and physically. We owe it to survivors to fight for reproductive rights.
Resilience will continue to stand with those courageously fighting on the frontlines for bodily autonomy. We will always trust people to make decisions about their own bodies. We will fight for access to abortion for everyone. Resilience is proudly pro-choice and will continue to provide our clients with options regarding reproductive health if they so choose.
We are proud to say that Illinois is a save haven state for abortion, and Resilience will do whatever it can to help connect our clients to safe, legal abortions. Our Medical Advocacy services are available to help survivors and their loved ones with care.
Planned Parenthood: Information about abortion
Planned Parenthood: Is it still legal for me to get an abortion?
Chicago Abortion Fund: Resources for before your abortion
Chicago Abortion Fund: Resources for after your abortion
Women’s Health Magazine: What to expect when considering an abortion
Are you outside of Illinois and want to know your abortion rights in a post-Roe v. Wade environment? This state-by-state guide has the most up to date information about abortion laws.
Abortion Support Organizations
For a full list of COVID-19 resources, please click here.
All survivors have the right to file a police report and pursue criminal legal accountability under the Illinois Sexual Assault Incident Procedure Act.
If you seek emergency services in a hospital, they are required to notify law enforcement when they are treating a patient for injury sustained from a sexual assault and other crimes. Even though they are required to notify law enforcement, and law enforcement is required to create a written report, a victim is not required to speak to police if they do not want to.
If you do not seek services from a hospital and wish to report to law enforcement, you can report what happened to any law enforcement jurisdiction in the state of Illinois and they are required to take the report.
For more information on your right to report the crime to law enforcement, including assistance and accompaniment, please contact one of our advocates or call the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline.
Note that if the sexual assault happened recently, law enforcement may likely refer you to the ER so that you can receive medical care and the option to report in one location.
Set to go into effect September 17, 2023, the Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA) was part of sweeping criminal justice reform in 2021 affecting policing, pretrial detention and bail, sentencing, and corrections by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.
The PFA contains numerous protections for survivors of gender-based violence and specifically sexual assault. It remedies the ability for people who cause harm to buy their way out of jail, expands the courts assessment of safety and risk, and allows criminalized survivors freedom during the criminal legal process, keeping families and communities together.
What does the elimination of the cash bail system mean for survivors?
When someone is arrested for sexual assault and charged, they will be detained (held in jail) for up to 48 hours. During this time, instead of courts setting a fee for freedom before a criminal trial (generally known as a bond), prosecutors may file a petition to detain the defendant in jail prior to trial if there is either a real and present threat to the safety of any person or the community or someone poses a flight risk and will not return for court.
After the petition is filed, a hearing will occur within this 48-hour window to determine whether or not the defendant will be held in jail while waiting for the criminal trial to occur. In order for pretrial detention, a prosecutor must show:
- If released, the defendant poses a threat to the safety of any person or persons or the community, based on the specific facts of the case; or
- There is no other combination of release options (i.e. electronic monitoring) that can reasonably meet the goal of returning to court;
Courts will specifically consider:
- Nature and circumstances of the offense charged
- Weight of the evidence
- History & characteristics of defendant
- Nature and seriousness of the real and present threat to the safety of any person or persons or community
- Nature and seriousness of the risk of obstructing justice
For the offenses of violation of protective order, domestic battery, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, cyberstalking, harassment, attempt to commit 1st degree murder of spouse or partner and stalking, the law also carves out additional information the court may take into consideration in determining pretrial release.
After a decision is made on pretrial detention, the case will proceed into criminal legal proceedings such as arraignment, discovery, discussions on plea-bargaining and trial.
How does the PFA help survivors of sexual violence?
1. The cash bail system allows dangerous people to buy their way out of jail. The PFA allows judges greater authority to detain individuals who are accused of violent crimes and deemed a danger to the community or a risk of fleeing prosecution while limiting judicial discretion when it comes to lesser, non-violent offenses.
Sexual assault as well as domestic battery, stalking, murder, armed robbery, certain firearm and weapons offenses and violation of a protective order are all detainable offenses pretrial.
Researchers and advocates believe these needed changes will impact lower-level defendants spending less time in jail, while stays may get longer for those accused of violent crime because they can no longer free themselves on bail.
2. Added requirements strengthen the opportunity for prosecutors and survivors to work together in addressing safety. Prosecutors have increased responsibility in working with victims to assess safety and access specific rights as crime victims.
The PFA contains carefully crafted language regarding survivors’ ability to be present in the detention hearing and their ability to participate/contribute to the case for pretrial detention. Previous to the PFA, survivors did not have the right to be present during this process in the same way they did for other court hearings under the Illinois Crime Victims’ Rights Act.
Prosecutors must also provide the survivor notice of their right to protective orders and must file a revocation of any release before trial where the defendant has been charged with violation of a protective order while out on pretrial release. The PFA also adds limits on the ability of the defense to subpoena victims during the detention hearing.
3. Nationally, there are more survivors than rapists in jail. Only 2% of cases awaiting criminal trial locally (and nationally) are for sex offenses. The vast majority of those in jail are being held for offenses such as drugs or theft.
Jail populations also contain high numbers of those who have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime as well as being predominantly Black and Brown. Cash bail forces those who cannot afford to pay for their freedom to sit in jail until a criminal trial occurs, often years. Being jailed disrupts employment, school, caretaking roles, and mental health.
In addition to this reality, jail and prisons are also places where sexual violence occurs. The Prison Rape Elimination Act was enacted to combat the prevalence of sexual violence in lock-ups, jails and prisons nationally. Please visit the PREA Resource Center for more information on PREA.
The work to end sexual violence includes the work to end systemic oppression. Higher rates of incarceration for Black and Brown communities coupled with previous abuse experience paints a devastating picture of who sits in jail awaiting their day in court not for risk to public safety but for the inability to pay for their own freedom.
What happens to sexual assault cases when the PFA goes into effect?
While the Illinois Supreme Court addresses legal challenges to the constitutionality of eliminating cash bail, its important work continues in preparing survivors of these potential changes.
Of cases charged for sexual assault where defendants are currently in custody, a defense attorney can file a motion for a hearing to be held to determine pretrial detention based on safety and flight risk in accordance to the new law. Courts will hear evidence on any real and present threat to the safety of any person or the community or someone poses a flight risk and will not return for court.
Survivors should anticipate being notified by your prosecutor’s office to participate and be present during this process should you wish. You can also proactively reach out to one of our advocates to help you navigate this process.
Additionally, survivors who have been detained due to inability to afford bail prior to a criminal trial should work with their attorney in filing a motion for pretrial release.
Where can I find more information on these changes?
More information on the PFA and ending cash bail can be found here:
More Questions? Please contact us here.
Illinois Protective Orders
You may be eligible for a court order prohibiting the person that harmed you from contacting you and/or entering and remaining in certain locations like your home, workplace or school. Commonly known as a ‘restraining order’, Illinois has specific orders for sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking.
For information about a Civil No Contact Order (an enforceable court order that prohibits further contact by the person who harmed you), visit our YouTube channel here.
For more information on obtaining a protective order, contact Resilience and ask to speak to an advocate or visit here.
More information on legal options available to you can be found here.
Safe Homes Act
The Safe Homes Act is an Illinois law that allows victims of domestic or sexual violence to end their rental lease early and leave their home to protect their physical safety and emotional wellbeing. In certain circumstances, victims can also request an emergency lock change to keep the abuser out of the home.
For more information on Safe Homes Act, talk to one of our advocates or visit here.
State and federal law prohibit sex discrimination in educational settings. A school’s failure to respond to reports of sexual violence or to accommodate student survivors may qualify as sex discrimination under these laws. If you are a student impacted by sexual violence your school has a responsibility to ensure appropriate accommodations are provided to you, in addition to investigating the harm you experienced, if the person who caused the harm is a student or faculty of the school.
Additionally, the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act requires that your school provide you access to a Confidential Advisor, if you attend a college or university. This individual can help you navigate your options and is not a mandated reporter at your institution.
If you choose to file a Title IX complaint and engage in the Title IX process, you may be able to pursue disciplinary action against the person who harmed you and access accommodations such as:
- Changing class schedules
- Providing an escort between classes/work
- Transportation accommodations
- Obtaining or enforcing campus/state orders of protection/no-contact orders
- Excused absences
- Extensions on assignments/exams
- Withdrawing from school with no financial penalty
*Requesting accommodations from a professor or teaching assistant will trigger a mandated report.
For more information on Title IX, visit here. For information on Illinois laws that protect student-survivors, contact one of our advocates.
Victims Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA)
VESSA protects the workplace rights of employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence as well as the rights of employees who have family or household members who are victims of domestic or sexual violence. VESSA is intended to help employees keep their jobs and stay safe while an employee whose been sexually assaulted or is supporting a family member who has been sexually assaulted, attends to their emotional needs, getting medical treatment or need other time off related to their sexual assault.
VESSA specifically provides:
Entitlement to unpaid, job-guaranteed leave. VESSA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work during any 12-month period to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.
VESSA prohibits employers from refusing to hire, discharging, harassing or otherwise discriminating against applicants and employees with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment based on the applicant’s or employee’s status as a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.
VESSA is administered and enforced by the Illinois Department of Labor. A complaint must be filed within three years after the alleged violation occurred. An employee may recover damages including lost wages and employment benefits, as well as attorney fees, and other relief such as reinstatement and promotion. For more information on VESSA, visit here or contact one of our advocates.
The federal government has special visa categories for crime victims regardless of status in the United States.
For immigrants who are in the US on a family or spousal visa and are being abused by the family member who their visa is attached to, you may eligible to apply for a green card under the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA). For more information on this process visit here.
If you are victim of human trafficking or other crimes (including sexual assault) you may be eligible to apply for a UVISA or TVISA to obtain legal status in the United States. For more information on these options, visit here or contact one of our advocates.