Madigan announces joint effort to increase care for rape survivors, prosecute sexual predators

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Attorney General Lisa Madigan today announced a joint effort led by her office to double the number of sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) in hospitals statewide. Madigan said the addition of SANE nurses is a critical step to encouraging more survivors to report their assaults and putting sexual predators in prison.

Madigan and the Illinois Hospital Association will work to double the number of SANE nurses practicing in hospitals to 150 and implement a SANE program in each of Illinois’ 11 trauma regions by the fall of 2012, meaning an on-call SANE nurse will be available 24/7 to aid survivors of sexual assaults. SANE nurses are specially trained to conduct forensic examinations and testify in court.

“Most sexual assaults go unreported, and as a result, the justice system fails survivors of these horrible crimes while violent predators remain free,” Attorney General Madigan said. “We must do more to encourage sexual assault survivors to come forward. By putting more SANE nurses on duty, we can assure survivors that they will receive compassionate and medically appropriate care that will also provide critical evidence to law enforcement to pursue justice.”

Joined by the IHA and area hospital representatives at Chicago’s Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Madigan stressed the great need in Illinois for more SANE nurses. The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault estimates that only three in 10 rapes are actually reported to authorities. Last year, for instance, sexual assault crisis centers and hotlines helped more than 18,000 rape survivors, according to ICASA, and yet Illinois State Police data indicate just over 5,300 rapes were reported to police.

Many of these survivors are children, Madigan said. Today, 25,192 sex offenders were listed in the state’s sex offender registry, of whom 20,349 – or 80 percent – committed a crime against a child.

However, Madigan said, only two Illinois hospitals until recently have had SANE programs operating around the clock – Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest and Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. Since Madigan created a training program for SANE nurses to become certified in 2003, 650 nurses have been trained but only 75 are fully practicing SANE nurses.

“The Illinois Hospital Association and the hospital community are pleased to collaborate with the Attorney General on this important initiative to assist survivors of sexual assault by increasing the number of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners in our hospital emergency departments,” said Maryjane Wurth, IHA president. “Our hospitals are committed to providing the highest quality, compassionate care to these survivors as well as critical forensic services needed for the prosecution of offenders to help keep our communities safe.”

Among the first to commit to implementing more SANE programs is Advocate Health Care, which already operates its South Suburban Hospital SANE program. Beginning with Condell Medical Center in Libertyville and continuing at Illinois Masonic, Advocate has pledged to add SANE programs throughout its health care system. Condell will become Advocate’s first level-1 trauma center with a coordinated SANE program.

“Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs have greatly benefited emergency departments and, more importantly, the victims of sexual assaults and abuse,” said William Maloney, MD, medical director of Advocate Condell’s emergency department. “I would want a SANE-trained nurse available if I had a loved one who was the victim of one of these crimes.”

Protecting survivors of sexual assault has been a priority for Attorney General Madigan since she took office. Most recently, her office worked with state lawmakers to pass the Illinois Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Act, making Illinois the first state in the nation to implement a law mandating the submission and testing of sexual assault evidence. Under the act, local law enforcement must submit DNA rape kits to Illinois State Police crime labs for testing within 10 business days of receiving the kit from a hospital, and ISP must analyze the kit within six months of receipt.