SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Police and prosecutors will be able to charge child sexual predators at any time under legislation passed by state Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, closing a loophole that allowed disgraced former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert to avoid prosecution for sex crimes he committed decades ago.
“Too often, sexual offenders are able to escape punishment and victims do not receive the justice they deserve because too much time passes before they are able to come forward,” Mussman said. “By doing away with limitations on prosecuting these horrific crimes, we are providing law enforcement the ability to put criminals who have harmed innocent children behind bars. Regardless of the amount of time that has passed, offenders need to be brought to justice.”
Mussman sponsored Senate Bill 189, which removes the statute of limitations on various sex crimes against children including sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and predatory criminal sexual assault. The measure would allow law enforcement to bring charges at any time when survivors come forward or evidence is discovered.
Mussman’s efforts are necessary as survivors of rape and sexual abuse are often reluctant or unable to report the crime. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nine out of 10 child sexual abuse victims are abused by someone close to them, and may be hesitant to report them. Disclosure of sexual abuse is often delayed; children often avoid telling because they are either afraid of a negative reaction from their parents or of being harmed by the abuser. This causes them to often delay disclosure until adulthood.
Hastert pled guilty to illegal bank withdrawals and lying to federal law enforcement agents in 2016. The illegal withdrawals were made to an individual as hush money payments to keep past sexual misconduct from going public, but Hastert could not be charged for the sex crimes themselves because the statute of limitations had expired.
“The reality is that because of a loophole in current law, sexual predators are not held accountable for their actions,” Mussman said. “If there was ever any issue that should dissolve party lines, it has to be this one. I urge Governor Rauner to do the right thing to help protect our kids from dangerous predators.”
The measure received bipartisan support in the House and Senate, and now awaits the governor’s signature before becoming law.