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State

New Illinois law aims to help child victims of sexual assaults

EAST PEORIA – Children who have been victims of sexual assaults will have greater access to specialized care under legislation signed Friday by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Mike Unes, R-East Peoria, helps open up access to emergency care for such kids by employees at clinics that have trained experts.

“There’s such a big difference between a 5-year-old who has gone through this kind of trauma and a 25-year-old who has gone through this trauma,” Unes said of the need for experts trained in interacting with children to administer treatment as well as perform rape kits and other such work.

The legislation also has provisions to increase the number of trained pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners and physicians.

Those numbers of experts specifically trained to work with children are quite limited in many downstate areas, Unes said. That can create problems in itself.

“Going through a forensic evidence rape kit that is not done properly on a young child could be as equally traumatic as the unthinkable trauma itself,” he said.

The goal of the legislation, Unes said, was to “not only get more front-line care more quickly, but ensuring that the people on the front lines doing the work are the most qualified.”

It was a 2-year effort by Unes, who worked to bring on board members of the state’s emergency room physicians association, medical centers themselves, various state agencies, state’s attorney groups and groups representing caregivers in specialized agencies like the Pediatric Resource Center.

“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 a prepared release. “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.”

The measure is House Bill 5245.

Chris Kaergard can be reached at ckaergard@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.

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©2018 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.)

Visit the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.) at www.PJStar.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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