Martinez initiatives protecting sex crime victims becomes law

CHICAGO – To protect the identities of child and adult sex crime victims, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Y. Martinez partnered with former colleagues Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) and Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) on two proposals that were signed into law on Friday.

“It was important for me to ensure our clerks have clear tools to keep victims’ information private for their safety and to ensure they maintain their rights to their own stories,” Martinez said. “No one should be at risk of having their traumatic experience made public against their will or knowledge.”

The measures came to fruition after a CBS 2 story identified issues that were left unresolved under the previous Circuit Court Clerk’s administration.

“Survivors of sexual assault should be the only ones allowed to tell their stories,” Lightford said. “Their privacy should come first, and only they know how best to overcome their trauma.”

Currently, the Privacy of Child Victims of Criminal Sexual Offenses Act requires the identity of any child sex offense victims be restricted. However, it does not specify how it should be done. The need to clarify this law inspired the decision to expand privacy protections to adult victims.

“Privacy and confidentiality are often important components to healing from sexual violence. Our priority at Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center is to protect survivors of child sexual abuse from further violence and help them heal,” said Char Rivette, executive director of the Chicago Children Advocacy Center. “Restricting identifying information about these children from public view is crucial to our efforts. We are proud to support SB2339 in honor of the 43,000 survivors of child sexual abuse in Chicago that we have served since opening our doors in 2001.”

 “It is repugnant to think that adults and minors who have been victims of sex crimes have had their identities revealed without a court order and without their consent. These bills right those wrongs permanently and ensure that victims do not have to undergo a second traumatizing experience. I am grateful to Clerk Iris Martinez for her dedication to protecting survivors,” Cassidy said.

Senate Bills 2339 and 2340 would require anyone wanting to access restricted information to petition the court to gain access to those documents.

"RAINN applauds Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez, Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford and Representative Kelly Cassidy's leadership in championing these bills, which will ensure survivors of sexual violence in Illinois have the autonomy to protect their identity," said Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. "Not all survivors wish to go public, and it is their right to choose when, to whom, and under which circumstances they disclose their information."

Both measures will go into effect January 1, 2022.