Allow IL rape crisis centers to use funding for rape survivors legal needs.

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We, the undersigned, appeal to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) to permit rape crisis center sub-grantees of ICASA to use VOCA funds to establish legal services as a core service.  Victims of sexual assault experience profound, life altering trauma.  While in the midst of that trauma, the victim must face the civil and criminal justice systems.  Victims meet with law enforcement officers, prosecutors, officers of the court, judges, school leaders, employers, landlords, child protective service representatives and many others to report the crime, request an investigation and seek redress.  Once they report, victims rely on others for action on their behalf.  Others decide whether to investigate, arrest, process evidence, file charges, prosecute, and provide compensation.

To support them, victims have rape crisis center advocates.  Those advocates provide emotional support and information about options and actions available to the victim.  The advocate also addresses those in the systems, asking them to listen to the survivor, take them seriously and respond with the goals of justice and safety.  But the advocate, alongside the survivor, has little recourse when those in the civil and criminal justice systems do not listen, ignore the victim or refuse to act.

Then, a lawyer and only a lawyer can make a difference.  A lawyer can provide legal advice and representation.  A lawyer can write a letter to a school, employer or landlord to assert the victim’s legal rights.  A lawyer can stand in front of a judge, beside or on behalf of a survivor, to make a request.  A lawyer can assert the rights of the survivor.  Among these and many more actions, lawyers have the standing to give the survivor a voice.  Whether she is unable to speak because of fear, perpetrator intimidation, or any other factor, having a voice – through a lawyer – gives the survivor choices and a presence that they are otherwise denied.

A lawyer, grounded in victim-centered services and trauma-focused practices, can provide real access to justice for victims of sexual violence.

We implore the ICJIA to permit rape crisis centers to use VOCA funds for victim-centered, trauma-focused legal services to be provided in concert with the other core rape crisis services so critical to victim recovery and justice. 

Thank you for your consideration.

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