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WUIS 91.9 NPR Illinois | Rape Laws - Illinois Makes Major Moves Forward

(02/01/2015) A look at sexual assault laws across the country is equally confusing. Laws for the most part have changed to include both genders and define different levels of sexual assault and abuse, says Jennifer Gentile Long, director of Æquitas, an organization offering resources to prosecutors who work on cases involving violence against women. But they vary on how to define consent and force. The age of consent in one state might be 18, but 16 in another. And yet, in another state, that 16-year-old might not be prosecuted if the other person was within four years of his or her age. California is the only state to require “yes means yes” affirmative consent, a statewide law for colleges and universities that receive state money. States differ on force as well. Is it physical? Can it be psychological? Does a threat count? Intimidation? The age of consent in Illinois varies from 17 to 18; someone impaired can’t give consent and the use of force is broadly defined. [ . . . ]

Kate Kurtz is an assistant state’s attorney in Macon County who also prosecuted sex crimes in Winnebago County. In 2012, she successfully prosecuted Nathan Bell of Rockford, who sexually assaulted prostitutes and drug addicts. Kurtz says he preyed on the vulnerable and that the women were brutalized, making conviction easier. “It was horrific what he did to them,” she says. “I’m lucky the women in that case let me into their lives.” Kurtz says victims who speak up, especially those with checkered pasts, are brave. “Who subjects themselves to this?” she asks. “It’s not fun. It’s scary.” Gentile Long of Æquitas agrees. “It’s not complicated to defend one of these cases because you are just feeding into what people believe. But people are questioning why, and it has become more publically accepted to talk about sexual assault and to critically think about it,” she says.

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