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Crime Survivors Push For More Trauma Centers

crime survivors rally
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
Survivors of crime rallied Thursday at the Illinois Statehouse. They were joined by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx and other public officials.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul say they’ll use the power of their office to expand trauma services — but they’re asking for help from the General Assembly.

They made the announcement surrounded by survivors of crime at the Illinois Capitol Thursday.

A 2017 law created two trauma centers for victims of violent crimes, like sexual assault or gun violence. The centers in Peoria and Chicago provide therapy, support groups and medication management for people suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But advocates argue that’s not enough to address the needs of survivors around the state.

When Bertha Purnell’s son, Maurice, was shot and killed in Chicago, she had trouble coping. She said she had to quit her job and began feeling delusional.

“One time I even followed a car that I thought had my son’s killer in that car,” Purnell said. “I can’t tell you today why I did what I did. But with my background, I knew that I had become a danger to myself and others.”

Purnell said it’s difficult for people to get help if they don’t have private insurance, leaving crime victims and their families to suffer alone.

At least eight in 10 crime survivors experience at least one symptom of trauma, advocates said. Those who are young, low-income or from communities of color are the least likely to get treatment — despite being the most likely to face violence.

Foxx, herself a survivor of sexual violence, said healing communities — not throwing more people in prison — is key to preventing future crime.

“We know that people who commit harm and those who are harmed live in the same communities,” Foxx said. “They live in the same families, and the sad reality is that sometimes they live in the same bodies.”

Foxx said the people most affected by violence are the best equipped to fight it.

“Our communities are stronger, our policies are stronger, when survivors are at the table leading the conversation about what they need, and not being told what they deserve,” she said.

Advocates also want to increase access to the state’s Crime Victim Compensation Program, which awards victims and their families up to $27,000 in financial assistance for expenses resulting from a violent crime.

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