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Rauner signs sexual abuse legislation

  • Gov. Bruce Rauner

    Gov. Bruce Rauner

By Pete Spitler
updated: 8/22/2017 9:55 PM

Perhaps lost in the noise of the school funding fight was news that Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation on Aug. 11 that removes the statutes of limitation for sexual abuse crimes.

The bill, Senate Bill 189, now allows for the prosecution of those crimes at any time. Previously, victims had to report crimes within 20 years after they turned 18.

SB 189 took effect as soon as it was signed and applies to future felony child sex crime cases, as well as current criminal cases in which the previous statute of limitations has not expired.

According to sponsor State Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park), the legislation puts in place "best practices for dealing with sexual assault cases statewide and puts in place a system that will encourage survivors to come forward and receive justice when they are ready."

The chief proponent of the bill was Scott Cross, who was raped as a boy by former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert during Hastert's tenure as a teacher and coach at Yorkville High School.

"Dennis Hastert used his authority and position as a role model to violate the trust of the youth in his care - in the most unimaginable way possible," Cross said in a news release from Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office. "And despite the lives ruined and decades of pain and suffering the survivors continue to deal with, he will never be held accountable.

"I am thankful that Illinois law will now allow survivors of these horrific crimes to come forward in their own time, and get justice -- no matter how overdue."

Nationwide, 36 other states and the federal government have removed criminal statutes of limitations for some or all sexual offenses against children.

"Sex crimes against children are a horribly tragic violation of trust that can take a lifetime to recover from," Madigan said in the news release. "This new law will ensure that survivors are provided with the time they need to heal and seek justice."

Randolph County State's Attorney Jeremy Walker said the new law "puts another tool in the toolbox."

"Certainly from a prosecution's standpoint, it helps," he said. "I can't say it will make a huge difference, but the longer the delay in reports, the harder it is to prosecute.

"I don't think (the new law) will open the floodgates, but it puts another tool in the toolbox."

Walker was asked how prevalent child sexual abuse is in the county.

"It certainly occurs in this county and they are very difficult cases to prosecute," he said. "Number one, when it comes down to (a trial), the family doesn't want to put the child through it.

"There are circumstances when the case is investigated and you're fairly confident, but 'fairly confident' isn't without a reasonable doubt."

- The Associated Press contributed to this report