New Illinois Law Addresses Sexual Assault on Campuses

sexual-assaultIn August, Governor Rauner signed the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act. The law imposes a variety of requirements on institutions of higher education in regards to their policies and procedures concerning sexual violence on campus. The law took effect immediately, although most of its requirements do not become applicable until August 1, 2016.


The new law applies to public universities, public community colleges, and independent not-for-profit and for-profit higher education institutions.


The law requires that universities adopt a comprehensive policy concerning sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, consistent with federal and state law. In particular, the policies must contain a definition of consent that recognizes that:

  • Consent is a freely provided agreement to sexual activity;
  • A person’s failure to verbally or physically resist or submission as a result of the use or threat of force is not considered consent;
  • The way a person dresses is not considered consent;
  • A person’s consent to previous sexual activity does not affect consent to sexual activity in the future;
  • An individual’s consent to sexual activity with someone is not also considered consent to engage in sexual activity with someone else; and
  • An individual can withdraw consent whenever he or she chooses.

The meaning of consent must also include a provision noting that a person cannot consent to sexual activity if that person is unable to understand the nature of the activity or give knowing consent due to circumstances, including when the person is:

  • Incapacitated by alcohol or drugs;
  • Unconscious;
  • Underage; or
  • Incapacitated as a result of a mental disorder.

Rights of the Accused

Those who have been accused of committing a sexual assault on campus also have certain procedural rights under the new law, including:

  • The chance to offer evidence and witnesses on their behalf;
  • The accused may not be directly cross-examined by the person making the complaint;
  • The accused may not be ordered to testify if the complaint resolution process involves a hearing in the presence of the other party; and
  • The accused is entitled to a written notice of the results of the complaint resolution procedure within a week of a decision.


The accused also has the right to timely appeal the findings if he or she alleges that:

  • A procedural error took place;
  • New information exists that would alter the results of the finding; or
  • The sanction is disproportionate to the violating act.

The individuals involved in ruling on the appeal cannot have participated in the previous complaint resolution procedure or have a conflict of interest with either party. The accused must receive the appeal decision in writing within seven days of the conclusion of the review.

An allegation of sexual assault can have far-reaching consequences. If you are a student and you have been charged with or arrested for a crime, it is essential to obtain experienced legal representation. Please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC for an initial consultation.