Young victims of sexual abuse might have more time to file criminal charges against their offenders.
Illinois state lawmakers passed legislation to remove the statute of limitations on these crimes.
“Research shows the brain blocks these memories. People don’t even remember them until they’re finally ready to process them,” said Child Abuse Council of the Quad Cities Executive Director Mark Mathews.
Mathews says the legislation is necessary because many victims aren’t ready to take action against offenders until they’re well into adulthood.
“I think it will help more people feel comfortable coming forward. In the cases of Dennis Hastert or Penn State University, what built the case was the pattern of abuse and so many different people coming forward with similar stories,” said Mathews.
Dennis Hastert is a former Illinois congressman who is now serving time in prison after a hush money case revealed he was accused of sexually abusing boys as a teacher and coach in Illinois.
Hastert could not be charged for the sex crimes because of the statute of limitations.
“A lot of the Hastert cases came in their 40s and 50s, just when they were ready to finally speak about it,” said Mathews.
Right now, young victims can take action until they’re 38, 20 years after they turn 18.
This bill would change that, allowing them to sue at any time.
Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee supports the legislation and says it should not affect their case load because employees will still have to examine evidence.
“We have to evaluate those factors to make the right decision in each particular case. So, I don’t think it’s going to be something where we’re going to see the flood gates open and we now are going to have lots of new sex abuse type case,” said McGehee.
This restriction has already been lifted in most of the country.
“Thirty-six states around the country have done away with statute of limitations as well on sex abuse crimes. So, it was time for Illinois to do this,” said McGehee.
Local lawmakers, Rep. Mike Halpin, (D-Rock Island) and Sen. Neil Anderson (R-Moline) were co-sponsors for the legislation.
The bill has passed both houses.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner just needs to sign it for it to become law.