Thursday, December 22, 2011

Responding to "The Misunderstood Sex Offender"

If you pick up a copy of today’s Chicago Reader and flip to page 6, you’ll see a letter from our executive director, Rachel Durchslag, in response to the story “The misunderstood sex offender.” While we thought the story tackled some important issues, it missed the mark by failing to inform readers about the larger scope of the problem: most rapists are never arrested, charged or convicted. Did you catch the article in the Reader? What did you think? 

CAASE's attorneys work with survivors of sexual assault every day. Many of these survivors were raped by acquaintances, and few of them ever see their attacker held accountable until they reach out to us. Learn more about our legal services here. 

Here’s our response to the Reader article:

Dear Editor,

Readers of “The misunderstood sex offender” (Dec. 8, 2011, by Sam Worley) might conclude that Illinois is over-punishing sex offenders when, in reality, the overwhelming majority of perpetrators of sexual assault are never held accountable for their crimes. Within the realm of sexual violence, the men featured in Worley’s article represent a tiny minority of sex offenders; the men he featured were actually convicted. It’s estimated that fewer than 11 percent of rapists in Illinois are ever arrested, let alone charged or convicted of their crimes. Current law enforcement practices and the laws pertaining to sex offenders are clearly ineffective, and we must begin by demanding that perpetrators be arrested and charged. Reforming our response to sexual assault should never center on the needs of the offender, as Worley suggests, but instead on creating justice for crime victims.  

Rachel Durchslag
Executive Director
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Rape Survivor Tells Her Story and Thanks CAASE's Attorneys

As CAASE wraps up 2011, we are reflecting on all that we've accomplished this year. Recently, we heard from a client about just how much CAASE's legal services really meant to her:

After Jessica’s ex-boyfriend sexually assaulted her, all she wanted was for him to stay away. Night after night, she couldn’t sleep, worrying about her own safety. “I wanted to create a barrier between him and myself. I wanted to be empowered.”

Through the Sexual Assault Justice Project, CAASE’s attorneys work with local rape crisis centers to ensure that survivors have access to free legal counsel through our office. At the YWCA, Jessica worked with an advocate who helped her navigate the criminal justice system. In the end, Jessica decided against filing a police report.  “I was not, at the time, emotionally able to press charges,” she said. Her advocate recommended that Jessica contact CAASE.

After talking to CAASE’s  Legal Director Kaethe Morris Hoffer, Jessica felt a huge sense of relief. “She was so professional, confidential and supportive,” Jessica said. “It was the first thing that made me feel like I had options.”

Kaethe wrote a letter to Jessica’s attacker, and he ended up calling the CAASE office. “Apparently he was apologetic and ashamed,” Jessica said. “He very much heard the tone of the letter and was afraid of the consequences, and I have not heard from him since.”

As a teacher who’s paying her way through grad school, Jessica wasn’t prepared for the additional costs that came after she was assaulted. Therapy and medication weren’t things she had budgeted for, so she was grateful that CAASE’s legal services were completely free, regardless of her income. “I was eating ramen noodles,” she said. “It would not have been feasible for me to pay for a lawyer.”

After raving about Kaethe’s professionalism, Jessica adds, “I would not have gotten through without this. Once the letter was sent, well, I’ve been slept through the night ever since.”