* This could be a good idea…
[Rep. Frank Mautino] is backing legislation to protect victims of sexual abuse by expanding prosecutors’ ability to file charges against alleged rapists.
The measure calls for lengthening the statute of limitations in rape cases. Currently, the statute of limitations begins once the crime is committed. Under the bill Mautino supports, the clock on the statute of limitations would not begin until the evidence from the rape is collected, transmitted and analyzed by the Illinois State Police.
“Sexual assaults are hideous crimes that can leave victims traumatized for the rest for their lives. Their emotional pain is made worse when their attackers can’t even be arrested and held accountable,” Mautino said. “Victims must be given every opportunity to see their attackers brought to justice.”
* Again, that’s all well and good, but first you gotta get prosecutors to bring charges. The Belleville News-Democrat looked at the 32-county southern Illinois region and found some shocking stats…
(T)housands of women, teenage girls and children in a 32-county area of Southern Illinois told police they were sexually violated by someone they trusted: a friend, an ex-boyfriend or a family member.
Authorities did not prosecute seven out of 10 of these sex crime suspects from 2005-13, even though victims were able to identify their attackers 95 percent of the time, according to a Belleville News-Democrat investigation.
While national attention has focused on rape on college campuses and in the military, a review of more than 1,000 police reports and 15,000 pages of court records showed that failure to bring sex crime suspects to court was widespread throughout Southern Illinois during the nine-year period ending in 2013, the latest figures available. […]
• Of 6,744 felony sex crimes reported to police across the region, 70 percent, or 4,721 cases, never made it to a courtroom. […]
• The overall chance that a felony sex crime suspect would go to prison was one in 10. When suspects were prosecuted, the conviction rates generally ranged from 55 to 85 percent.
• Some cities with the largest police departments and most investigators had the highest number of felony sex crimes reported but some of the lowest prosecution rates: East St. Louis, 7 percent, Carbondale, 8 percent and Belleville, 18 percent.
• Women 18 or older accounted for 31 percent of sex crime victims, according to a review of 1,070 felony police investigative reports. But an analysis of court records showed that adults accounted for only 17 percent of sex crime prosecutions.
• The prosecution rate of felony sex crimes in Madison County was more than double that in St. Clair County — 38 to 18 percent, respectively — even though they border one another and are nearly identical in population.
(C)onviction rates overall were relatively high for the cases that were prosecuted. Some experts suggest that means prosecutors are taking only cases they’re sure they can win.
“They do their work on a case-by-case basis — and their biases about what is a winnable case plays out over and over again, and the number of cases that don’t move forward just keep adding up,” said Rebecca Campbell, a professor at Michigan State University’s Research Consortium on Gender-based Violence.
* The BND has published a long series on this topic. From another story…
Of 62 felony sex crime cases from 2005-09 where local police departments in 18 Southern Illinois counties asked the State Police for help:
• ISP investigated all of these cases and sent 34 to local prosecutors, who rejected 31 of them.
• Of the 31 rejected cases, 26 involved victims younger than age 13.
• In the three cases that were prosecuted, all involved a confession
Thomas W. Smith drove too fast, didn’t wear his seat belt and beat his wife. Details of his convictions for the traffic offenses and domestic battery are available at the Union County Courthouse for anyone to examine.
But a county judge ruled that his conviction in 2008 for raping an 11-year-old girl should be kept secret, despite provisions in the Illinois Constitution that generally protect juveniles but require court records to be open for adults charged or convicted of crimes.
In Union County, that wasn’t always the case.
At least 39 felony cases, most involving sex crimes, were removed from 2007-13 by court order. Even the circuit clerk’s computerized records, known as a manifest, that include the case number, defendant’s name and description of the crime were hidden from the public.
Campus police investigated 41 complaints of criminal sexual assault, or rape, and 11 allegations of felony sexual abuse from 2005-13 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, which has an enrollment of about 18,000 students.
Yet, only five of these 52 reported felony sex crimes, or 10 percent, ended up in a courtroom.