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New laws work to protect and support domestic violence survivors

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(WSIL) — Governor JB Pritzker signed seven pieces of legislation into law to address domestic violence and remove some of the obstacles survivors face.

“Every difficult choice and obstacle we eliminate for victims of domestic violence unlocks an opportunity for them to prioritize their safety,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “While our work to make Illinois a safer and more compassionate state for survivors is not done, I am heartened by the steps we have taken today.”

House Bill 3582

The bill expands the Illinois Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) to provide economic security and safety for more survivors of violent crime.

With VESSA, survivors may take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid time off during any 12-month period. Employers must make reasonable accommodations in the workplace and are prohibited from discrimination in terms of hiring, firing, income, promotion, harassment and retaliation against VESSA-qualifying employees.

In addition to victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and gender violence, the provisions of the Act now apply to victims and family members of victims of crimes of violence. The amended definition expands even further who qualifies as a “household or family member” and leaves it up to the employee to determine whether an individual meets this definition. HB 3582 takes effect January 1, 2022.

House Bill 3223

The legislation provides a number of new trauma-informed support and protection measures for K-12 students who are survivors of sexual abuse or gender-based violence, parents and expectant parents. The bill seeks to ensure students of all ages can stay in school, stay safe, and complete their education through a variety of provisions, including:

  • Requires schools to have at least one staffer trained to respond to disclosures of domestic or sexual violence or gender-based harassment.
  • Outlines confidentiality procedures to protect student privacy and limits the questioning of child survivors of trauma to trained professionals.
  • Adds that a valid cause of absence from school includes issues specifically related expectant parents, parents, or victim of domestic or sexual violence.
  • Establishes the Success in School Task Force to create and amend policies and procedures that are survivor-centered and rooted in trauma-informed responses to support all students who are survivors of domestic or sexual violence. ISBE will provide administrative support, and the task force will submit its report to the Governor and General Assembly on or before June 30, 2024.
  • Requires school districts to review all existing policies and procedures and revise any that act as a barrier to students’ success, specifically those that are expecting or parents, or victims of domestic or sexual violence. The review must take place no later than July 1, 2024, and every 2 years thereafter.

HB 3223 takes effect on July 1, 2025.

House Bill 3484

The new bill allows a party in divorce proceedings to request that the opposing party pay an allowance for an initial retainer fee to hire an attorney as a form of interim fees. It will help people with limited incomes receive equitable counsel.

HB 3483 takes effect January 1, 2022.

House Bill 3485

The Illinois Supreme Court can now implement a program to issue Hope Cards to petitioners of a plenary order of protection. Illinois currently does not have a Hope Card program, which exists so that survivors of domestic violence can display essential protection order data in a concise and easy-to-read card format.

HB 3485 takes effect on January 1, 2022.

House Bill 3317

The law creates the Domestic Violence Taskforce Act, also known as Colton’s Taskforce. It’s named after Colton Miller, an 18-month-old who was tragically killed by his father during in a domestic violence incident.

Colton’s Taskforce will conduct a comprehensive review of processes, operations and enforcement of domestic violence laws in the state, identify gaps and develop recommendations to protect victims and survivors of domestic violence, while holding offenders accountable.

HB 3317 takes effect immediately.

Senate Bill 685

Illinois is creating the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission under ICJIA with the goal of reducing domestic violence fatalities. It also aims to address disparate practices with the systems that interact with victims, survivors and offenders. The 20-member statewide committee will meet at least quarterly and produce a biannual report for the General Assembly.

SB 685 takes effect immediately.

Senate Bill 920 

It creates the Illinois Forensic Science Commission in Illinois. The commission will include the voice of victims of crime and all stakeholders in the justice system, a recommendation of the Illinois State Police and the Governor’s Task Force on Forensic Science.

SB 920 takes effect immediately.

“As chair of the Illinois Council on Women and Girls, we have been focused on preventing gender-based violence and supporting survivors,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “I am thankful that Governor Pritzker is prioritizing gender-based violence and his signature on these bills is just one more example of how we are working to make Illinois safer, more equitable, and empowering for women and girls.”

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