Victims of violent crimes can get up to $27,000 for some out-of-pocket expenses under the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Act.
A crime victim can be:
- Someone killed or injured in Illinois due to a violent crime
- A spouse or parent of someone killed or injured in Illinois due to a violent crime
- A person killed or injured in Illinois while trying to assist a crime victim
- Someone who personally witnessed a violent crime in Illinois
- An Illinois resident who became a victim of a violent crime in a country that does not have a compensation fund for crime victims. or
- Someone under the age of 18 who is the brother, sister, half brother or sister, child, or stepchild of someone killed or injured in Illinois due to a violent crime
What qualifies as a violent crime?
A violent crime is any of the following:
- First degree murder
- Second degree murder
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Reckless conduct
- Child pornography
- Hit and run of pedestrians
- Fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer
- Hate crime
- Criminal sexual assault
- Criminal sexual abuse
- Exploitation of a child
- Driving under the influence
- Domestic battery, or
- Violation of Order of Protection, Civil No Contact Order, or Stalking No Contact Order
Who qualifies for compensation?
To qualify for compensation, you must:
- Tell the police about the crime
- You must do this within 72 hours, or give a good reason why you couldn’t tell the police right away
- Victims of sexual assault or sexual abuse have 7 days to notify the police
- After the incident, a victim of domestic violence can meet this requirement by getting an Order of Protection, a Civil No Contact Order, or a Stalking No Contact Order or complete a sexual assault evidence collection kit if sexual assault was part of the violent crime
- File an application with the Illinois Attorney General
- Cooperate with the police as they investigate or arrest and prosecute the offender
- Note: The offender doesn’t have to be arrested for you to qualify
- Cooperate with the Attorney General by giving information about the claim
- Not have contributed to your injury by doing something illegal, being the offender, or causing the crime
You cannot be paid compensation until you are released from any probation, parole, mandatory supervised release for a felony, or from jail or prison. However, the claim still must be filed within 2 years of the date of the crime or one year of the criminal charge, whichever is later.
Costs covered by the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Act
All expenses must be related to the crime. If you can show proof of how much you paid or owe, you can get money for:
- Medical, hospital, and dental costs
- Mental health counseling
- Loss of earnings, up to $1,250/month
- Relocation, including:
- Temporary lodging
- Moving expenses
- First month’s rent
- Security deposit, and
- Replacement costs, including:
- Hearing aids
- Clothing and bedding taken as evidence, and
- Locks or windows damaged as a result of the crime
- Crime scene clean-up
- Accessibility and usability of property, including wheelchairs and ramps
- Loss of tuition
- $1,250/month for replacing the services that the injured or deceased individual would have performed, including:
- Lawn mowing
- Tax preparation
- Child care
- Funeral and burial costs, up to $7,500
- Loss of financial support, up to $1,250/month
- Transportation to and from medical and counseling appointments
What if someone else paid some of the costs?
If someone else paid the costs, that amount will be deducted from the money you get. If any other sources of reimbursement, such as insurance or hospital charity care, are available, those sources must be used before any payments can be made.
You are responsible for telling the program of all available reimbursement sources, including:
- Health, dental, vision, and life insurance
- Free care, examinations, and treatment provided to victims of sexual assault under the Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act
- Charity care provided by hospitals and emergency rooms under the Hospital Uninsured Patient Discount Act
- Public benefits, including:
- Public aid
- Worker’s compensation benefits
- Auto insurance
- Court-ordered restitution and civil lawsuit judgments
For more information, call the Crime Victim Compensation Bureau at the Attorney General’s office at 800-228-3368. You can also visit the Illinois Attorney General’s website.
How is the money paid?
Reimbursement is made to the victim for out-of-pocket expenses, or to any person who paid the victim’s expenses. Reimbursement may also be paid directly to service providers, such as hospitals, doctors, funeral homes, and others, for expenses that victim has to pay as a result of the crime.
A denial of funds can be appealed for a hearing before a Commissioner, and a final decision by the Illinois Court of Claims. Any appeal must be filed within 30 days of issuance of the order denying funds.
Emergency Treatment for Sexual Assault Victims Act
Victims of sexual assault have certain rights when they first come to the hospital. Doctors and hospitals that give emergency treatment must follow these rules.
If you need emergency treatment for sexual assault, you have the right to get:
- Information about emergency birth control
- Emergency birth control (the morning after pill) and medication for sexually transmitted diseases
- Information about sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and infection
- Medical exams and any lab tests that will ensure your health and collect evidence for police investigations (a sexual evidence kit)
- Instructions about any follow-up exams you should have
- Instructions about medication you need
- Referrals for counseling
You do not need a parent or guardian to get treatment.
Gender Violence Act
Gender violence is a violent act that is committed because of a person’s sex. It can also be a threat of a violent act.
If you are a victim of gender violence, you can sue anyone who was involved with the act and get:
- Money for costs you paid because of the violence
- Money for emotional distress
- Money so that the people who harmed you are punished
- Lawyer fees
- Court costs
- Anything else the court thinks you should get
Safe Homes Act
You can end your lease early and leave if anyone in your home is or will be a victim of:
- Domestic violence
- Dating violence
- Sexual violence
Also, if you are the victim, or live with the victim, and feel you are in immediate danger, you can stay in your rental housing even if your landlord wants to evict you.
To end your lease early and to leave your home, you must:
- Tell your landlord in writing that you were a victim of violence or stalking that happened in your home;
- Do this 3 days before or after leaving your home; and
- Do this no more than 60 days after the incident occurred.
You can end your lease if you feel threatened anywhere on the property. It does not have to be inside of your home. So, it can be the:
- Laundry room
- Parking lot
- Front and back entrances to the property
Your landlord must change your locks within 48 hours after:
- You give notice;
- You show evidence of violence in your home; and
- All members of your household agree to have the locks changed.
Your landlord does not have to pay for your locks, so you may be charged. But if your landlord refuses to let you change your locks, you can go to court, and a judge can order your landlord to let you change the locks.
If you live in Section 8 housing, you are protected under the Safe Homes Act. You are not protected if you live in any other type of public housing.
Unemployment Insurance Act
If you need to leave your job for your safety, you can still get unemployment benefits, but you must give your employer written notice of your reason for leaving.
You also must give information to the unemployment office. You need to give them as much information as possible. You do not have to prove that domestic violence occurred, but you must provide at least one of the following documents:
- An Order of Protection or Civil No Contact Order
- A police report documenting the domestic violence
- Medical documents of the domestic violence
- Evidence of domestic violence from a counselor, social worker, health worker, member of the clergy, or domestic violence shelter worker
Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act
This section explains your rights under the Victim’s Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA). VESSA protects workers who have domestic or sexual violence problems. It also protects people who have family or household members who have domestic or sexual violence problems. Employers must do the following things to protect victims:
- Let you take time off from work to deal with the domestic or sexual violence problems;
- Not discriminate against you because of the violence you or your family or household member experienced;
- Make reasonable changes to make sure you are safe and economically secure; and
- Keep all information related to the domestic or sexual violence secret.
What kind of time off do I get?
Your employer must let you take time off from work to deal with your domestic or sexual violence problems. They do not have to pay you when you take the time off. It is your choice, not your employer’s, if you want to use paid time off that is available to you. This includes sick or vacation time.
Your employer must allow you to return to your same job or an equal position when you get back. If you get public assistance, you should still get it.
If you or a family or household member has domestic or sexual violence problems, VESSA allows you to take time off for the following reasons:
- You or a family or household member are experiencing an incident of domestic or sexual violence;
- To recover from the violence;
- To get medical attention;
- To get counseling, or other services;
- To get legal assistance or go to court;
- To get Orders of Protection or Civil No Contact Orders;
- To relocate to temporary or permanent housing; or
- To do other things for safety or economic security.
If you work in Chicago or Cook County, you may be able to earn paid sick days and use those days for reasons related to domestic or sexual violence under their local laws.
How much time off do I get?
The maximum amount of time you can take off from work depends on how many workers your employer has. Use this chart to figure out the maximum amount of time you can take off:
|Number of workers your employer has||Time you can take off in a year|
|50 or more workers||12 work weeks|
|15-49 workers||8 work weeks|
|1-14 workers||4 work weeks|
You may take time off all at once, or at different times, or on a reduced work schedule.
Who does VESSA apply to?
VESSA applies to all employers who have one or more workers. This includes all state and local governments and school districts. It applies to workers employed full- or part-time, and job applicants. VESSA also applies to applicants and recipients of public assistance. This includes people working or participating in a work assignment so that they can receive public assistance.
How do I let my employer know I’m taking time off?
You should give your employer at least 48 hours’ advance notice whenever you can. If you don’t know you will need the time off in advance, you must tell your employer about the need for time off as soon as you can.
Your employer can also require you to give them a letter. The letter must state that you, or your family or household member, are a victim. It must also say that you are using the time off for one of the reasons above.
Finally, if you have one of the following documents, your employer can require you to give them a copy:
- A letter from someone at a victim services organization, an attorney, a clergy member, or medical professional;
- A police or court record; or
- Other relevant evidence.
If you do not have these documents in your possession, your employer cannot require you to give them a copy.
What if my employer discriminates against me?
Your employer or a public agency cannot discriminate against you because of the violence you or your family or household member experienced. They cannot:
- Refuse to hire you,
- Fire you,
- Harass you, or
- Take any negative action against you for asserting your rights under VESSA. This includes requesting or taking time off. It also includes requesting, accepting, or rejecting an accommodation. Finally, it includes the fact that the workplace is disrupted or threatened by the person who victimized you.
Can I ask my employer to change something to help me?
You can request that your employer make reasonable changes (“accommodations”) to help you stay safe and economically secure. If your employer doesn’t make the changes, they must tell you why doing so would be an “undue hardship.” An “undue hardship” means a change that would be very hard or expensive for the employer.
Reasonable changes may include an adjustment to a job structure, workplace, or work requirement. This could include:
- A transfer or reassignment;
- Different work schedule;
- Changed telephone number or seating assignment;
- Installation of a lock;
- A safety plan; or
- Help with documenting domestic or sexual violence that happens at the workplace.
Your employer must make the change in a timely manner. They must consider any danger you may be facing.
And always remember: your employer is not allowed to tell anyone else about your situation, unless you say it’s okay in writing.
How do I file a complaint?
Contact VESSA at (312) 793-6797 if you need to file a complaint against your employer.