Survivors to have online access for protection orders, court hearings in large counties
By GRACE KINNICUTT
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Illinois Senate voted to pass a measure that provides domestic violence and sexual assault survivors online access for order of protection court hearings in the state’s nine largest counties.
Sponsored by Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, Senate Bill 3667 provides survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault the option to file an order of protection online or in-person and requires counties with a population of 250,000 or more to offer a remote hearing to the petitioner for a protective order.
Counties above that threshold include Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, Kane, McHenry, Winnebago, Madison and St. Clair.
An order of protection orders an individual who is causing harm to stay away from someone and provides an extra measure of safety to survivors.
At a Wednesday morning news conference, Stadelman was joined by Sen. John Connor, D-Lockport, Carrie Ward, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Amanda Pyron, executive director of The Network Advocating Against Domestic Violence, to discuss how the legislation benefits victims.
Ward said providing remote options eliminates the barriers of travel limitations, child care issues and victims having to face their attackers.
“As a community, as a state and as a society, we need to do everything we can to help survivors recover from trauma,” Ward said.
In Cook County, Pyron said, survivors currently have access to remote hearings on emergency orders, ensuring survivors with disabilities or those who are hospitalized have “equal access to justice.”
Pyron shared the story of a survivor of domestic violence who was shot by her partner but was able to obtain an emergency order of protection prior to being discharged from the hospital. She said the online option saved her from traveling to court while she was recovering and provided protection from her attacker.
According to the bill, courts will need to issue and publish a court order, standing order or local rule that details information about the process for requesting and participating in remote court appearances. The order would need to be published on the court’s website, posted on signs throughout the courthouse and in the clerk’s office.
The bill also allows the petitioner and the respondent to appear for related hearings remotely or in person. Courts could approve or deny the request for a remote hearing.
As a former prosecutor of domestic violence cases, Connor said he was often able to predict the outcome for victims depending on how well they could navigate the court system.
Connor said victims who were unable to navigate the system had worse outcomes, and it is the legislature’s responsibility to ensure survivors of domestic abuse are safe throughout the reporting process.
Ward said ICASA hopes the legislation is the first step in increasing the survivor’s ability to receive protective orders in the safest and most efficient way possible. Ward noted they would like to see subsequent legislation that eliminates the population requirements and opens online access to the entire state.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.