Unes' bill to aid pediatric sex abuse victims clears House panel
Rep. Michael Unes (R-East Peoria) said he was proud to present HB5245 after two years of hard work, a bill he called landmark legislation that amends the Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act by adding hospital and care site requirements in the review of pediatric sexual assault care.
“It is a bill that gives a voice to the voiceless,” Unes said at Tuesday's House Human Services Committee hearing. “As good as we have done with that it, became apparent we can do even better,” he said.
Unes said HB5245 was in the Health Care Licensing Committee last year and needed more work. He said said he was gratified to finish it off with the assistance of the attorney general’s office, Pediatric Research Center, law enforcement, states attorneys and several hospitals.
“My goal on day one has never changed in that is that this most vulnerable population that has been through unthinkable trauma and deserves to have the most qualified professionals see that child and that is what we are accomplishing in this bill,” Unes said, adding future amendments will follow to bill.
Dr. Channing Petrak with the Pediatric Research Center discussed the importance of the bill at the hearing, detailing how protocol and legislation surrounding sexual assault treatment has been mostly for adults.
“The pediatric population wasn’t addressed separately until the last several years,” Petrak said. “They aren’t little adults and you can’t apply adult principles to a child, and they do need to be treated separately.”
The bill assures only specialized exams given by specific physicians will be used when treating pediatric sexual abuse.
“Many physicians in a rural setting are not comfortable and have not seen a child who has been sexually abused because it just does not happen that often in their community,” Petrak said, adding the bill will allow parents or guardians to transfer their children to more competent and child-friendly centers.
Rep. William Davis (D-Homewood) said he appreciates Unes’s bill, adding he presently has a similar bill dealing with law enforcement sensitivity and adolescent victims of sexual assault. But he questioned the bill's language noting the 90-minute clause of exam.
Unes said the “compromised issue” in the bill was specifically due to the diverse demographics of the downstate areas and the difficulty of a qualified physician getting to a victim in certain amount of time.
“Originally what this bill said was the victim who was presented had to be seen within 60 minutes, but that is not feasible in many situations,” Unes said. “What that means that as long as there is an approved treatment facility they must be seen within 90 minutes.”
Rep. Patricia Bellock (R-Hinsdale) moved that HB4245 be approved and the committee concurred.