RVA believes that you should have all of the information necessary to make decisions about exercising your rights under the law. Our legal advocates can provide information and support, as well as refer you to additional resources such as attorneys who specialize in representing victims of sexual violence. Below is information about some of the laws related to employment, healthcare, confidentiality and more. For more information, contact RVA at (312) 443-9603.
Victims Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA)
In August 2003, VESSA became law in Illinois. VESSA protects the workplace rights of employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence as well as the rights of employees who have family or household members who are victims of domestic or sexual violence. VESSA is intended to help employees keep their jobs and stay safe. VESSA specifically provides:
- Entitlement to unpaid, job-guaranteed leave. VESSA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work during any 12-month period to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.
- Employment sustainability. VESSA prohibits employers from refusing to hire, discharging, harassing or otherwise discriminating against applicants and employees with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment based on the applicants` or employees` status as a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.
- VESSA is administered and enforced by the Illinois Department of Labor. A complaint must be filed within three years after the alleged violation occurred. An employee may recover damages including lost wages and employment benefits, as well as attorney fees, and other relief such as reinstatement and promotion.
Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act (SASETA)
SASETA, 410 ILCS 70, is an Illinois law that has been in effect since 1987. It mandates that all hospitals licensed under the Hospital Licensing Act, 210 ILCS 85, that provide general medical and surgical hospital services shall provide either transfer services or hospital emergency and forensic services to sexual assault victims. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is the institution that approves hospital sexual assault treatment plans whereas the hospital will be listed as an approved treatment center. The administrative rules of SASETA require that every hospital shall comply with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) and that hospitals providing emergency services and forensic services to sexual assault survivors minimally provide, with the consent of the sexual assault survivor and as ordered by a qualified medical professional the following:
- Sexual assault is prioritized in the emergency department as an Emergency Severity Index (ESI), which alerts hospital staff to respond to victims second only to life and death patients.
- Hospital staff shall respond within minutes of the patient’s arrival and move the patient to a closed environment (ideally as four walls or three walls and a curtain) to ensure privacy and shall refer to such patients by code.
- All patients who enter the emergency department within 7 days of the sexual assault shall be offered an Illinois State Police Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit (ISPECK). If the patient consents to the ISPECK but chooses not to release it immediately, law enforcement must hold the ISPECK for 5 years while the patient decides whether or not to have the evidence tested.
- Anyone at any age can consent to treatment and the evidence collection kit related to a sexual assault. Remember that consenting to evidence collection is two parts: consent to the collection of evidence and consent to release the evidence for testing or holding. A minor under 13 years of age requires a parent or legal guardian, investigating law enforcement officer, or DCFS representative to release the kit to law enforcement for testing.
- People with disabilities do not need a guardian present to consent for medical treatment, evidence collection, or release of evidence for testing for sexual assault in the ER. *However, if a survivor is unable to consent to the release of evidence for testing, an investigating law enforcement officer may release the evidence if the guardian is unavailable or unwilling to do so.
- The patient shall receive medically and factually accurate oral and written information concerning pregnancy resulting from sexual assault, emergency contraception, the indications and counter-indications and risks associated with the use of emergency contraception, and a description of how and when sexual assault survivors may be provided emergency contraception upon the written order of a qualified healthcare provider.
- Medications are to be made available to the patient for treatment at the hospital and after discharge (Section 5(a4 & 8) of the Act). This includes, but is not limited to: HIV, emergency contraception, and STI prophylaxis as deemed appropriate by the attending physician. The patient shall receive oral and written information about all medications dispensed, possible contraindications of such medication or disease resulting from sexual assault. Please reference the Center for Disease Control 2015 Treatment Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines.
- The patient shall receive referral by hospital personnel for appropriate counseling that provides emotional support and confidentiality. *Many hospitals partner with agencies like Rape Victim Advocates to provide the crisis intervention counseling in the ER and follow-up counseling resources
- The patient shall receive oral and written information indicating the need for a follow-up exam and laboratory tests to determine the presence or absence of pregnancy, STIs and HIV.
- The patient should never receive a bill for any services provided in the ER as an outpatient. This includes all bills related to a hospital or health care professional furnishing hospital emergency and/or forensic services, an ambulance provider furnishing transportation to a sexual assault survivor, a hospital, health care professional or laboratory providing follow-up healthcare or a pharmacy dispensing prescribed medications to any sexual assault survivor. If the patient has listed health insurance, the hospital will first attempt to receive payment from their insurance agent. Whatever the health insurance company will not pay, or if the patient does not have health insurance listed, the IL Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services will reimburse the hospital for any procedures, medications and follow-up tests. The prohibition on billing does not include inpatient hospitalization.
- A patient is also eligible for up to 90 days of free follow-up care after their emergency room visit if they return to the hospital emergency room or by utilizing the sexual assault emergency treatment program ‘voucher’.
- Hospitals must issue a sexual assault emergency treatment program ‘voucher’ to patients treated for sexual assault and/or abuse upon discharge. This voucher is generated by the hospital through the IDPH MEDICAL ELECTRONIC DATA INTERCHANGE (MEDI) SYSTEM. A copy of the voucher should be placed in the patients’ medical record. The hospital shall provide a copy of the voucher to the sexual assault survivor after discharge upon request.
Confidentiality of Statements Made to Rape Crisis Personnel
The relationship between you and the rape crisis center you receive services from is based on trust and privacy, so it is important that you understand your right to confidentiality. Illinois’ “Confidentiality of Statements Made to Rape Crisis Personnel” statute provides significant protection to communications between a victim and a rape crisis worker. Creating an absolute privilege for rape victims has provided victims with stronger protections and given victims more control over information about their lives. Victims can confide in rape crisis center counselors and advocates, knowing that they run little risk of having those communications disclosed publicly unless they consent to such disclosure.
Illinois Crime Victims Bill of Rights
Under the Illinois constitution, crime victims have certain rights within the criminal justice process.
Crime victims may also be eligible to receive Crime Victim’s Compensation through the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
The Sexual Assault Incident Procedure Act contains new requirements for law enforcement authorities and hospitals to improve their response to victims.