(KFVS) - Two Heartland states are set to approve or have already approved new laws regarding sexual assault crimes.
Illinois approved it's new Act on Tuesday, August 23, and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed a similar bill into effect on Wednesday, August 24.
Illinois' new law will focus on sexual assault crimes on college campuses.
"These are people that have been victimized," Bevin said. "They are owed the courtesy and the constitutional rights of having their cases heard and having justice served in an timely and accurate manner."
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), state and local officials and advocates to highlight the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act on Tuesday.
The law took effect this month and requires Illinois colleges and universities to implement procedures to prevent and better respond to sexual violence complaints.
"As another school year begins, Illinois students should be focused on going to college to learn and not to be derailed by sexual assault," Madigan said. "This new law ensures anyone who experiences a sexual assault is heard, protected and supported."
Lori Brown works with victims of sexual assault in Paducah, Ky. She said convincing victims to allow a rape kit to be collected can be hard enough....only to find out it may take years to get results.
"Given everything that a victim has been through anyway that we can make it easier for them," Brown said. "Anyway that we can provide support and help them move through this process is so important."
The Act ensures that Illinois colleges and universities:
- Develop a clear, comprehensive campus sexual violence policy, including detailed incident reporting options and university response guidelines
- Notify student survivors about their rights, including their right to confidentiality, and the protections the university can provide to ensure the student’s health and safety, such as obtaining an order of protection, changing class schedules or campus housing, and the availability of medical and counseling services
- Provide a confidential advisor to survivors to help them understand their options and rights, including to report the sexual assault and to seek medical and legal assistance
- Adopt a fair and balanced process for adjudicating allegations of sexual violence
- Train students and campus employees to prevent sexual violence and improve awareness and responsiveness to allegations of sexual violence.
- Allow students to report data and information electronically, confidentially or anonymously (in addition to other methods offered by the college or university). A third party or bystander can also report an incident. Colleges and universities must respond to a report submitted electronically within 12 hours.
In Kentucky, Senate Bill 63, also known as the sexual assault evidence collection kit bill, at the State Crime Lab in Frankfort is scheduled to be signed into effect on Wednesday.
SB 63 requires all sexual assault examination kits, which have not been subjected to testing, be submitted to the Kentucky State Police forensic laboratory by January 1, 2017. It also requires that by July 1, 2018, the average completion rate for classification of sexual assault evidence collection kits not exceed 90 days and by July 1, 2020, the average completion rate not exceed 60 days.
SB 63 also increases membership of the Sexual Assault Response Team Advisory Committee to include the executive director of the Kentucky Association of Children's Advocacy Centers.
Studies show that one in five undergraduate women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape. The U.S. Department of Education has even reported women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of sexual assault, and about six percent of male undergrads also become victims of sexual assault.
According to the Association of American Universities, more than 13 percent of gay or lesbian students, and 25 percent of bisexual students experience sexual assault. However, a 2014 U.S. Senate survey of 440 four-year higher education institutions found that more than 40 percent of the schools had not conducted a single investigation into allegations of sexual violence.