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Bills Strengthening Privacy Protections For Sexual Assault Survivors Pass Illinois House

By Chris Hacker

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Two bills introduced in response to a CBS 2 investigation unanimously passed the Illinois House of Representatives Thursday, clearing the way for them to become state law.

The two pieces of legislation were created after a pair of CBS 2 reports uncovered the sensitive personal details of young survivors of sexual violence had been left visible in Cook County court records. That exposure of private information violated a 1986 state law that required such information — including names, phone numbers, addresses and more — be removed from any court documents available to the public.

When CBS 2 brought its findings to the person responsible for maintaining court documents, then-Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, her office resisted taking action for weeks before finally promising to fix the problem. But months after Brown's staff did finally commit to making changes, CBS 2 found the records still hadn't been fixed.

By that time, Brown had been replaced by her successor, Clerk Iris Martinez. Martinez, a member of the State Senate for more than 20 years prior to becoming Clerk, worked with current Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford to introduce the two bills.

"These measures secure victims' rights to their own stories," Martinez said in a release emailed to CBS 2. "My clerks will have the appropriate means to keep victims' information private so they are not at risk of having their traumatic experience made public against their will or knowledge."

The first bill, Senate Bill 2339, amends the existing 1986 Privacy of Child Victims of Criminal Sexual Offenses Act. Members of the public will still be able to see records related to the case, but will require a court order to view any of the sensitive information CBS 2 found. The second bill, Senate Bill 2340, extends the same protections to adult victims of sex crimes for the first time.

They will now be sent back to the Senate, which will vote on them a final time before sending them to Gov. J.B. Pritzker to be signed into law.


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