A guest blog article by Erin V. (student, world citizen)
Illinois’ Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act (a.k.a SASETA law – 410 ILCS 70/5), passed in 1987, was one of the first of its kind in the United States. The SASETA law is meant to put the well being of the patient at the forefront of a health care professionals mind, no matter what it’s going to cost them. In fact, the patent never even receives a bill for the medical services provides since the burden of a bill is the last thing a survivor of sexual assault needs after such a traumatic experience as rape.
With a rape culture like the one we currently face in American society, this Act is still 100% necessary, even if all hospitals do not follow it the way they should.
For instance, a friend of mine worked for the sexual assault department of a Joliet Illinois hospital for some time. I heard war stories of how awful hospital staff was to the survivors of sexual assault. It’s important that all survivors receive the proper treatment and are not just brushed off, which sadly is often the case even with the law in place.
The first point of this Act is that these survivors are made a priority, of distinct importance on many levels.
Rape survivors often have injuries which need to be treated post haste. It is important that no evidence is lost between the time they walk through those Emergency Room doors to the time they get examined. At a deeper level, there needs to be a recognition of the psychological impact. Basically, if given too much time to sit and wait, they may get scared of re-victimization and leave without much needed medical treatment. This goes along with the second point in the Act which demands they be brought to a private room immediately.
Rape Survivors have been stripped of any privacy they had previously and should be given special attention so they know that they are indeed in a safe place.
A majority of the Act then goes on to discuss the necessity of informing the patient of what could happen, such as pregnancy and STDs, and how to prepare for that. The most important part of this Act is providing survivors with the proper counseling after they leave the hospital.
It is crucial to the healing process that these survivors know that what happened to them is not okay and not their fault.
Additionally, providing counseling reminds someone facing this kind of trauma that getting help is good for you and that the trauma does not need to define who they are going forward. By providing the appropriate counseling to survivors, they can receive the help they need and hopefully prevent permanent physiological damage as a result of the traumatic events. Survivors deserve to know what happened to them is wrong and should not be tolerated in society.
Sadly, however, sexual assault is too often brushed under the rug. This includes some of the blame being placed on the survivor, which will do more harm than good.
Most importantly, a law like this, when practiced properly, can help survivors rise above the situation and be a better person because of what has happened to them.
In the end, this law helps society as a whole, one person at a time. With fair and just treatment, survivors of sexual assault can regain their strength, possibly even the courage to speak out against sexual assault. Sexual Assault survivors do matter and should be treated as such. This can only help build awareness regarding rape culture in the hopes of putting an end to it altogether.