Legislation introduced by State Senator Sally Turner (R-Beason) that would provide victims of child sex crimes with additional privacy protections was signed into law on May 27.
Senate Bill 2942 clarifies that a judge can use his or her discretion to clear disinterested parties, excluding media, from the courtroom during the victim’s testimony even if the victim is over 18 years of age as long as the crimes were committed while the victim was still a minor.
“I was both shocked and appalled when my local State’s Attorney told me that a victim of a child sex crime was forced to share the intimate details of the worst day of their life in a room full of strangers and the accused’s former cellmate just because they had turned 18 by the time of the trial,” said Sen. Sally Turner. “This legislation will guarantee that a judge has the power to provide these victims with the privacy and discretion that they rightfully deserve. I’m thankful to be able to play a small role in ensuring that our legal system doesn’t unnecessarily add to the victims mental and emotional anguish.”
Under previous Illinois statute, a minor victim of a sex crime is afforded the right to testify without the presence of so-called disinterested parties. However, due to a lack of clarity within the statute, there was uncertainty on whether those privacy protections extended to victim’s who turned 18-years-old by the time of their trial.
“Having personally prosecuted cases involving victims of childhood sex assault, I’ve observed how the judicial process adds to their trauma and that of their families. To a person, they’ve relayed their dismay at the thought of sitting in front of a bunch of strangers to talk about the most horrific events in their life and asked why strangers would be allowed to view videos or pictures captured of them during those moments,” said McLean County State’s Attorney Don Knapp. “No legislation can magically wipe away that trauma. But I am confident that this legislation can lessen the additional trauma our most vulnerable victims suffer when having to come to court to testify. I am honored that Senator Turner asked me to write this bill and thank her and the entire General Assembly for acknowledging the need to search for methods to help victims of these horrific crimes.”
To safeguard the constitutional rights of defendants, the judge must find that particular parties do not have a direct interest in the case and must put their basis for that finding into the record. The new privacy protections and procedures are effective immediately.