Information on Survivor Options and Rights
Resilience believes that you should have all of the information necessary to make informed decisions about your options and exercising your rights after a sexual assault. Our advocates can provide information and support, as well as refer you to additional resources such as attorneys who specialize in representing victims of sexual violence. Below is information about some of your rights and options related to healthcare, employment, confidentiality and more. For more information, contact Resilience at (312) 443-9603.
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 minimally provide, with the consent of the sexual assault survivor and as ordered by a qualified medical professional, the following:
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.
All patients who enter the emergency department within 7 days of the sexual assault shall 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. Remember that 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.
The patient should receive oral and written information concerning pregnancy resulting from sexual assault, emergency contraception, the indications and counterindications and risks associated with the use of emergency contraception, and a description of how and when sexual assault survivors may be provided emergency contraception upon the written order of a qualified healthcare provider.
The patient should receive assessment and treatment for STIs and HIV. Medications are to be made available to the patient for treatment at the hospital and after discharge. 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.
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 the crisis intervention counseling in the ER and follow-up counseling resources
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.
A patient is also eligible for up to 90 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.
Notification of Law Enforcement
Hospitals in Illinois are required to notify law enforcement when they are treating a patient who has sustained an injury for a reported or suspected crime. 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 a sexual assault patient is interested in pursuing criminal charges against the person that harmed them they have several options related to reporting and collecting and testing evidence.
A sexual assault patient can choose to:
- Speak with police in the emergency room and have evidence collected and tested for DNA.
- Authorize a nurse to speak to police, providing the information the patient chooses, and have evidence collected and tested for DNA.
- Speak with police or authorize a nurse to speak with them, have evidence collected but wait to have it tested for DNA (up to 10 years).
- Not speak with police but have evidence collected and wait to have it tested (up to 10 years)
- Not speak with police, not have evidence collected and receive only medical treatment for STIs, HIV and pregnancy.
Survivors who do not wish to interact with police might consider going to a clinic or physician for follow up medical care after a sexual assault. Click here for information on what is offered in these settings versus and emergency room.
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.
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 more information on obtaining a protective order, contact Resilience and ask to speak to an advocate or visit 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.
Your Right to an Advocate and Privacy
You have a right to an advocate to support you in accessing these and many more options. The relationship between you and the rape crisis center you receive services from is based on trust and privacy, so it is important that you understand your right to confidentiality. Illinois’ “Confidentiality of Statements Made to Rape Crisis Personnel” statute provides significant protection to communications between a victim and a rape crisis worker. Creating an absolute privilege for rape victims has provided victims with stronger protections and given victims more control over information about their lives. Victims can confide in rape crisis center counselors and advocates, knowing that they run little risk of having those communications disclosed publicly unless they consent to such disclosure.
Illinois Crime Victims Bill of Rights
The Illinois Constitution and Illinois statutes provide that victims of violent crime have the following rights through the criminal justice process (both adult and juvenile):
- The right to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy and to be free from harassment, intimidation and abuse.
- The right to notice of and to a hearing before a court ruling on a request for access to any victim records, information or communications that are privilege or confidential by law.
- The right to timely notification of court proceedings.
- The right to communicate with the prosecution.
- The right to be heard at any post arraignment court proceedings in which the right of the victim is at issue and any court proceeding involving a post arraignment release decision, plea or sentencing.
- The right to be notified of the conviction, sentence, imprisonment and release of the accused.
- The right to timely disposition of the case following the arrest of the accused.
- The right to be reasonably protected from the accused throughout the criminal justice process.
- The right to have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in denying or fixing the amount of bail, determining whether to release the defendant and setting conditions of release after an arrest and conviction.
- The right to be present at trial and all other court proceedings on the same basis as the accused, unless the victim is to testify and the court determines that the victim’s testimony would be materially affected if the victim hears other testimony at the trial.
- The right to have present at all court proceedings, subject to rules of evidence, an advocate and other support person the victim’s choice.
- The right to restitution.
In addition to the above rights, the Sexual Assault Incident Procedure Act contains requirements for law enforcement authorities and hospitals to improve their response to victims. You have the right to make a report, the right to choose how much you would like to engage with law enforcement, the right to an advocate, the right to information from an evidence collection kit (if completed) and much more. Click here for more information.
You may also be eligible to receive Crime Victim’s Compensation through the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. Click here for more information and other resources through the Illinois Attorney General Office.
Information for Student Survivors
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.
Information for Immigrant Survivors
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.