Lt. Gov. Simon raises awareness on sexual assault violence

PEORIA, IL – Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon visited the Center for Prevention of Abuse in Peoria on Saturday to raise awareness about sexual violence and promote anti-domestic violence initiatives being championed by her office. The Center is among those who could see funds from an adult entertainment facility surcharge that went into effect this year.

“April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month but this issue demands our vigilance yearround,” said Simon. “One case of domestic violence or sexual assault is one too many. By opening virtual legal clinics, working with strong partners like the Center for Prevention and Abuse and passing victim’s rights measures, we are taking a strong stand.”

Simon worked with Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D- Olympia Fields) and rape crisis advocates to collect fees from adult entertainment facilities that permit alcohol and nudity. Strip clubs remitted more than $350,000 to the state in 2013, and the funds are designed to fund grants to community-based sexual assault programs.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) was first observed nationally in April 2001 with the goal of raising public awareness about sexual violence and educating communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. A recently published fact sheet by NSVRC notes that one in six boys and one in four girls will experience a sexual assault before the age 18.

“Lt. Governor Simon has been an important partner working to accomplish our center’s mission of helping all people – women, men and children – to live free from violence and abuse,” said Martha Herm, Executive Director of The Center for Prevention of Abuse. “We are happy to have her in Peoria and thankful for her continued support.”

While in Peoria, Simon announced the expansion of the Virtual Legal Clinic to domestic violence agencies in Danville and Charleston in the coming weeks. The Virtual Legal Clinic provides free, legal consultation to domestic violence survivors on matters including divorce, maintenance and marital property, child custody and visitation, debt, bankruptcy and other legal matters. The Virtual Legal Clinic will now serve survivors in 18 counties. Simon worked with the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence to pilot the state’s first Virtual Legal Clinic for domestic violence survivors in December 2011 at the Center for Prevention of Abuse in Peoria.

Simon also recently applauded the General Assembly for its efforts this week to create meaningful and enforceable rights for crime victims by passing House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 1 on Thursday. The constitutional amendment will appear on the November ballot and, if approved by voters, would provide victims a voice during the judicial process and more enforceable rights. Under the proposed amendment, victims would be notified before court rulings to access any of their  records; allowed to be heard at various court proceedings involving release decisions, pleas or sentencing; and have their safety considered during bail decisions, the release of the defendant, and the setting of conditions for release after arrest and conviction.

Simon has been a tireless advocate for victims of domestic violence. As an Assistant State’s Attorney in Jackson County, she prosecuted domestic violence cases, and as professor at Southern Illinois University’s School of Law, she helped launch a domestic violence clinic to train law students and to serve clients at no cost. Lt. Governor Simon will continue working to develop tools and resources for survivors and families affected by domestic violence.