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052115CM0553SPRINGFIELD — Federal funding from the Violence Against Women Act is a critical part of combating domestic violence and rape at the local level, says Pat Davenport, executive director of A Safe Place, a Lake County-based domestic violence relief agency.

“Eighty percent of the clients we work with have been sexually assaulted,” Davenport said. “We like to say domestic violence is separate from sexual assault, but they go hand in hand.”

Under current Illinois law, survivors of rape may need to pay fees for their own rape investigations, something disallowed under the VAWA, and a fact Davenport called unethical. To remove financial responsibility for their own rape investigations and ensure federal funding for sexual assault investigations is not jeopardized, State Sen. Melinda Bush cooperated with Attorney General Lisa Madigan to pass legislation out of the Illinois Senate today.

“With this proposal, we’re simply saying that victims of sexual assault should not be the ones to pay for things like testing rape kits, or other administrative fees,” Bush said. “This legislation ensures we remain compliant with the federal Violence Against Women Act and I’m proud to work with Attorney General Madigan to sponsor it in the Senate.

The legislation is House Bill 3848. Having passed the Senate without opposition, the amended version returns to the House for concurrence.

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