For Immediate Release : May 09, 2011
In 2001, her 11-year-old daughter was raped by a pedophile. In 2003, her daughter became further victimized by a prosecutor who advocated on behalf of the minimum sentence for the rapist. On May 11, 2011, Denise Rotheimer will testify on behalf of HB1237, known as the Survivor Rights Act to add enforceable rights that will prevent other victims of violent crimes from becoming further victimized by the system.
In 2003, Rotheimer met with a private attorney to hold the Assistant State's Attorney liable for further victimizing her child throughout the criminal justice system. Several days later the attorney phoned Ms. Rotheimer at work and informed her that she had no cause of action for damages, and faxed a copy of the Rights of Witnesses and Victims of Violent Crimes Act for her review. Rotheimer read through the state statute and was shocked to learn that she and her daughter even had rights as crime victims. "My child had a right to be treated with respect for her dignity! We had a right to hire an attorney to represent us throughout the criminal justice system as though we were a named party at my expense!" Rotheimer cried. As Rotheimer read through the law, she made a disturbing discovery that set the course for the next 8-years of her life.
With no other means to file a redress for her grievances, Ms. Rotheimer approached her state representative and requested he amend the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act to allow victims a cause of action for damages and attorneys fees, a sign-off sheet to verify a victim’s receipt of their rights, and appellate relief. In 2004 and 2006 Representative Churchill filed a bill in the House based on Rotheimer's criteria that she later named, the Survivor Rights Act. Both bills died in rules committee and never made it to the House floor for a vote.
In 2008 initiated Jasmine's Law, named after her daughter, and doubles sentencing for child sex offenders while the victim was under the influence of alcohol. Jasmine's Law was signed by Governor Quinn and became effective on January 1, 2011. Rotheimer could not rest knowing that crime victims were still at risk of becoming further victimized and immediately returned to work and initiated the Survivor Rights Act. On 4/15/2011 HB1237, known as the Survivor Rights Act passed the House floor unanimously. Rotheimer is confident that the Survivor Rights Act will pass the Criminal Law committee and also receive unanimous support on the Senate floor. "I can finally rest knowing that victims of violent crimes will have the same guarantee and equal protection under the laws that defendants enjoy."