The Illinois House of Representative has unanimously passed landmark legislation sponsored by State Representative Mike Unes (R-East Peoria) to improve access to treatment for pediatric sexual assault victims. In particular, child victims will now have improved access to emergency treatment from specialized clinics, such as Peoria’s Pediatric Resource Center. It also aims to increase the statewide number of pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) and physicians–which is currently very limited, particularly in downstate rural areas.
House Bill 5245 sponsored by State Rep. Mike Unes, provides that sexual assault victims are able to receive timely care from health care professionals who specialize in providing treatment for this population of victims.
“Since day one, my goal has been to ensure that this most vulnerable population of victims that has been through unthinkable trauma, may obtain the care they need and deserve from the most qualified medical professionals,” said Rep Unes. “While this bill enhances the quality of care for all victims of sexual assault, the greatest improvements will undoubtedly be for children. This bill truly gives a voice to the voiceless, and raises the standard of compassion and care for those who need it the most.”
Throughout this two-year-long process, Rep. Unes has worked closely with hospitals, law enforcement entities, the Attorney General’s office, and local physicians in an effort to carefully craft what promises to be a legislative milestone for sexual assault victims in the State of Illinois.
“This legislation represents the very first of its kind in the state, and finally helps address the fact that the sexual assault of a child is inherently different from the sexual assault of an adult,” said Dr. Channing Petrak of the Pediatric Resource Center in Peoria. “As a pediatrician who specializes in child sexual assault, I am tremendously grateful for the tireless dedication that Representative Unes has given to this long-overdue initiative.”
While the Illinois Hospital Association (IHA) recognizes that more nurse’s training in the area of sexual assault has been needed, past efforts have fallen short of achieving adequate levels of clinical expertise in many emergency rooms. Representative Unes believes that this bill will prompt the higher prioritization for the training of SANE nurses, while also providing better access to pediatric specialists for child victims. Peoria-based OSF St. Francis Hospital is a proponent of the bill.
This legislation also has the strong support of the Attorney General’s Office. According to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, “Survivors of sexual assault need specialized care from trained professionals when they go to the hospital, and this legislation is a step toward ensuring that the physical and emotional needs of survivors are met.”
HB 5245 now heads to the Illinois Senate for approval.