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Illinois crime survivors push for more protections, investment in trauma services

More than 200 survivors gathered in Springfield Wednesday calling for action to prevent...
More than 200 survivors gathered in Springfield Wednesday calling for action to prevent violence and provide more trauma services.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 3:39 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Many people across Illinois have experienced traumatic moments that leave lasting effects on their lives. For some, it has been losing a loved one or close friend to gun violence. Others have survived domestic violence or sexual assault.

A group of more than 200 crime survivors gathered Wednesday in Springfield to call on lawmakers to enact stronger public safety laws and policies to help victims. The survivors and loved ones of murdered Illinoisans say they need more support from the state to properly heal and recover from devastating situations.

Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice want money to go directly to community-based victim service providers in underrepresented communities. Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) knows firsthand what these families have gone through. Gordon-Booth lost her 22-year-old stepson Derrick Booth Jr. to gun violence in 2014.

“You can’t incarcerate your way out of this. You can’t prosecute your way out of this,” Gordon-Booth said. “We have to heal our community, and that’s what survivors uniquely can do in the state of Illinois.”

Gordon-Booth stressed that Illinois needs public safety for all, including more resources for survivors in times of crisis. She previously passed legislation to address mandatory minimum sentences to help people get rehabilitation services and a law to create trauma centers across the state.

Advocates say comprehensive services are critical for survivors and the state must address the root causes of violence. Many feel there needs to be more funding put toward mental health and trauma services.

Bertha Purnell also lost her son to gun violence. She says true public safety is not possible without supporting victims and meeting their needs.

Purnell noted that there are programs available for survivors right now, but she said that’s not enough. Some hope to see lawmakers extend lease termination exemptions for violence survivors.

“If there’s a need to move, they should be able to get out of their leases without being penalized,” Purnell said. “Losing a job or housing can be an added stressor when you’re already at the lowest point of your life.”

Advocates hope lawmakers can also pass legislation allowing family members of homicide victims to have 10 days off work to grieve, instead of the 72 hours allowed under state law.

The group said their voices need to be heard because when survivors speak, change happens.

“It’s time for us to turn the page and usher in a new chapter where we reimagine how we look at these crises,” said Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago). “I think it’s important that we start to see this as a public health crisis.”

Slaughter noted that former President Barack Obama and Gov. J.B. Pritzker have recognized violence as a public health crisis. Yet, he says everyone should treat survivor resources as important policy just like plans to reduce crime and violence.

The advocates presented Slaughter, Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) and Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago) with a Champion for Justice and Safety Award.

Slaughter, Sims, and Peters were lead sponsors of the SAFE-T Act that was signed into law last year. While that law addressed many areas of criminal justice and police reform, sponsors specifically included protections for survivors of violence.

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