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A promise kept helps other victims
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 6/29/2009 12:03 AM

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Strength, hope and power.

These are words Harper College students used to empower themselves in the fight against sexual violence. They also are words that can be used to describe Angela Rose and her efforts to help victims of sexual violence.

"I don't know what I can do to help prevent this from happening again, but I'm going to try everything I can." That's what Rose, then 17 from Bloomingdale, told a Daily Herald reporter in 1996, just a week after she was abducted from a Woodfield Shopping Center parking lot and sexually assaulted in a secluded area in Lake County.

Rose, as Daily Herald staff writer Kimberly Pohl reported Sunday, has kept that promise and more. Now 30, the Chicago resident is one of the nation's leading activists on sexual violence prevention. She founded PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, which works to change laws and advocate for victims. She has worked for legislation in Illinois, Wisconsin and in Congress.

In Illinois, her efforts helped secure passage of the 1998 Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act. It enables the state to hold a sexually violent person in custody under psychiatric care if he or she has been convicted of a previous sexually violent case, exhibits a mental disorder and is seen as a threat. More than 200 convicts have been committed as sexually violent persons and 150 more are pending.

Efforts are made each year in this state to strengthen laws in this area. For example, the Illinois General Assembly approved and sent to Gov. Patrick Quinn this year several bills that are supported by the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (ICASA). One strengthens the Civil No Contact Order Act, which provides a protective order for sexual assault victims. Another extends the rape shield law to civil cases. According to ICASA, it ensures that in most cases a rape victim's sexual history and reputation are not admitted into the record.

We urge Quinn to sign both bills into law. They will help improve the system for victims. But more can always be done. Advocacy groups, for example, are pushing for stronger victims' rights laws and, just as important, the enforcement of those rights in Illinois.

Doing so will encourage more victims to come forward and report what's happened to them.

"Despite all the activism, the one thing we've never done is to mobilize around reporting more," said Wendy Murphy, director of a Boston-based advocacy group. "We can't do very much with the system until we ramp up basic reporting. It's hard to fix a problem you can't see."

That's why it's vital for people to hear Rose's story, like those who listened at Harper. She inspires others to come forward and to show the strength, hope and power that she had over her attacker, over those who doubted what she said at the time of the attack and over the judicial system which had meted out lenient sentences for her attacker's past crimes.

She's says she's "on a mission to shatter the silence of sexual violence." We're happy to provide her a forum.