Illinois law seeks to improve sexual assault reporting

CHICAGO (AP) — A change in Illinois law aims to improve how police respond to sexual assault allegations by requiring officers undergo new training to improve sensitivity toward victims and learn about trauma.

The law also requires police take reports for every allegation, no matter how much time has passed or what jurisdiction it falls under, the Chicago Tribune reported .

Advocates and law enforcement officials said fear and doubt often deter victims from reporting assaults, with as few as 1 in 5 rapes being reported.

“We are not asking police officers to be social workers,” said Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “We are asking police officers to be good investigators — which is, ‘Tell me more.'”

The law’s new reporting requirements took effect last year. Training is already underway for recruits in Chicago. Officers investigating sex crimes are expected to be trained within the next two years.

The U.S. Department of Justice criticized the Chicago Police Department last year for inadequately preparing officers who investigate sex crimes.

“Survivors of criminal sexual assault and sexual violence deserve to be treated with respect and dignity as they pursue justice and attempt to seek some level of closure,” the department said in a statement. “The goal of these classes is to provide police officers with the most up-to-date understanding of the impact sexual assault has on survivors to minimize any additional trauma associated with the investigatory and prosecutorial process.”

The law also gives victims more time to tell police they want their rape kit tested. Victims previously had 14 days to make the decision but now have five years from the date of evidence collection or five years after they turn 18.