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Illinois consent law expanded: Victims intoxicated at time of assault can now prosecute perpetrator

The new law makes it so rape victims who are intoxicated at the time of an assault can prosecute the perpetrator even if the suspect didn't provide the substance.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Two new bills signed into law Thursday by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker are aimed to provide victims with more opportunities for justice in sexual assault cases. 

House Bill 5441 further defines consent in regards to victims who are intoxicated at the time of their assault. The law amends Illinois Criminal Code to specify that someone is unable to give consent when intoxicated, even when the accused assaulter didn’t provide the substance that intoxicated them.

The bill comes after 18-year-old Kaylyn Ahn was sexually assaulted while she was under the influence. When she went to report the assault, police told her that the case would likely not be prosecuted because she was intoxicated at the time.

"I just kept on telling myself that it was my fault. You know, 'I shouldn't have gone into the car I shouldn't have,'" Ahn said during a press conference Thursday morning. "Then I was making the report, you know, the police officer was like, 'Well, you got into the car. And you were talking to him, and you knew him before." 

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Ahn's story was brought to state Rep. Mark Walker (D-Chicago), which sparked the bill's creation.

"I guess it just, you know, sends the message that it wasn't my fault. And it wasn't your fault either," said Ahn.

Back in the Quad Cities area, Freedom House Resources Manager Trisha Schaefer said she was surprised the additional clarification of consent was needed but believes it will help victims seeking justice.

"You know, we believe victims all the time, that's what we do as an agency," Schaefer said. "This defines consent. And I mean, when there's... when you're unable to give consent, then there's no consent. And so just to have this more defined, is going to be very helpful, I believe."

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The other bill Pritzker signed into law on Thursday regards sexual assault by expanding medical treatment access for victims to 180 days after their assault. This is double the previous time allotted.

It also requires Federally Qualified Health Centers to provide medical forensic services by trained professionals.

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