New law extends statute of limitations on rape cases

CHICAGO — A new law extending the statute of limitations on rape kit testing helps the backlog of kits, but it doesn’t solve all the issues surrounding sexual assaults.

The 10-year statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault will now begin when the rape kit is tested, instead of when the crime is reported.

A long backlog of untested rape kits in Illinois and other states meant that many perpetrators of sexual assaults went unpunished. Even now, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says kits may take up to a year to be tested. Another concern that hasn’t been fully addressed, according to Madigan, is eradicating the bias of some police officers against the women reporting they’ve been raped.

Madigan says it seems as if sexual assault is the one crime where when a victim shows up to report, the viewpoint that too many officers start with is that they don’t believe that person.

Police departments do have some discretion as to whether to submit rape evidence to crime labs for analysis, but Madigan says her office is at looking at ways to ensure the discretion isn’t used as “an excuse to ignore legitimate assault.”