A new state law will protect victims of sexual assault from being arrested due to outstanding warrants or fines when reporting the crime.
Previously, when a sexual assault survivor came into contact with police, like when going to the hospital for treatment, they could be arrested for any outstanding warrants, even for minor non-violent offenses or unpaid fines. The new law requires police officials to request a waiver of the required execution of the warrant as long as it isn’t for a violent offense or parole violation.
The passing of this law is helping raise awareness and combat the stigma associated with reporting this type of crime in Bloomington-Normal.
“Someone who's been assaulted shouldn't have to worry about if they're going to go sit in jail if they report it, no matter what they've been doing or who they've been with, or if they've been involved in illegal activities during the course of the assault, that shouldn't be at the forefront of their mind,” says Christy Germanis, director of marketing and public relations for YWCA McLean County. “It should be getting the help that they need, and being able to heal from this terrible thing that's happened to them.”
YWCA McLean County and other groups, like Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA), have been working with state lawmakers to better protect survivors.
Kelsie Langheim, director of client services for YWCA’s Stepping Stones program for sexual assault survivors, said she had a positive experience working with Barickman.
“One of my staff members was able to talk with him and explain an example of what happened in our own community and how it impacted this person,” Langheim said. “And then he kind of took that and realized like, wow, this is kind of a big deal and I need to be in support of it.”
Langheim is hoping the new law will build better relationships between law enforcement and survivors and bring the community together to stand up for survivors.
“Victims of sexual assault shouldn’t fear being arrested when reporting the crime to police, even if they have had minor legal issues in the past,” said Barickman. “Victims may not even know they have a warrant for non-violent offenses or unpaid fines, and this new law makes sure they won’t be arrested while reporting a sexual assault.”
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