How Does Chicago Prosecute Rape And Other Sexually Motivated Crimes?

Crimes of sexual assault seem to be at the forefront of national debate, in part because of the #MeToo movement’s effort to see those responsible for sexually motivated crime brought to justice–or at the very least to bring the epidemic of sexual assault into the light. One in five women are raped. The vast majority of these events are never spoken of, and most of the rapists are allowed to walk free because of lack of evidence.

How does Chicago prosecute rape? Not well. Sexually motivated crimes are difficult to prosecute anywhere in the United States, in part because of the lack of strict federal rules or regulations. There is little groundwork done by our federal government, and most states and local municipalities have been slow to pick up the slack.

A 2016 review of Illinois’s response to allegations of rape and other sexual assaults led to a new law to improve the efficiency of investigations into these crimes and to offer support to victims. Unfortunately it doesn’t go far enough to help victims actually come forward. It’s like trying to wipe up the water on the floor before you turn off the faucet or unclog the sink. We’re putting the cart in front of the horse, and we can do better.

Illinois notes that in between 80 and 95 percent of rapes go unreported. Fewer still are prosecuted.

The 2016 litigation was the first to establish specific rules and regulations for how to respond to reports that are received. Training is focused on information. Trainees will learn to recognize the symptoms of trauma that can immediately follow a rape in order to better provide treatment. This isn’t just an act of compassion. This knowledge will help interviewers more easily gain reliable and actionable evidence during interviews with the victim, which in and of itself should increase the number of sexually motivated crimes that are charged and prosecuted.

Law enforcement is also now required to provide a written report when accusations are made–no matter what. There are no exceptions. What this means is that a report is filed whether or not a potential victim admits that he or she has been raped. If a victim tells a friend and the friend decides to go forward to law enforcement, then a report will be made.