Thursday, September 13, 2007
sponsored by Illini Bank

Illinois extends statute of limitations for rape victims who are threatened

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[September 13, 2007]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation Monday that gives sexual assault and rape victims more time to file civil lawsuits against the perpetrator. House Bill 1462 suspends the current two-year statute of limitations in the state of Illinois if the victim is threatened, intimidated or manipulated by the perpetrator or another person acting in the perpetrator's interest.

"Rape victims should have all the time they need under the law to bring civil charges against their attackers and to seek justice and compensation. And just as importantly, this law will help deter perpetrators from harassing their victims to keep them from bringing a civil suit," said Blagojevich.

House Bill 1462, sponsored by state Rep. Careen Gordon, D-Coal City, and state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, is loosely based on an existing state law protecting child victims of sexual assault by suspending the statute of limitations when the child is threatened or intimidated by the perpetrator.

"Intimidation and like behavior is all too common in rape cases, and we feel that this new law is a step in the right direction that will help victims get relief through the court system," said Lyn Schollett, general counsel for the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

The legislation, an initiative of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, is in response to the case of a rape victim who was unable to come forward for nearly two decades after her alleged rapist threatened her life. Although she lost her lawsuit, she argued that her diagnosis of Graves' disease in 2003, which her doctor attributed to rape trauma, reset the two-year statute of limitations for civil relief. According to the coalition, this case is a tangible example showing that the current law does not work for sexual assault and rape victims.

Proponents of the new law, including Northwest Center for Sexual Assault, Call for Help Inc., and Sexual Assault and Family Emergencies, hope the bill will deter perpetrators from harassing victims to keep them from filing suit. The law only applies to cases arising on or after the effective date or for which the limitation period has not expired.

The legislation becomes effective Jan. 1, 2008.

[Text from file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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