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In early 1977, women activists from nine community-based rape crisis centers in Illinois gathered to "form a mutual support group…adding strength to any issue such as legislative action, and giving our strength to each other." Searching for a name that reflected the profound social struggle necessary to end the degradation and rape of women, these activists named their group the Illinois Coalition of Women Against Rape (ICWAR).

As early as 1972, rape crisis workers in Illinois had established 24-hour crisis lines, conducted education and training programs, created thousands of brochures, offered self defense classes, organized and marched in “Take Back the Night” events and devoted thousands of hours to helping victims heal from the devastation of rape.

By linking their efforts through ICWAR, these early workers began their long journey to change the society. Like their sisters across the nation, coalition members advocated for legislative reform, insisted that police increase their arrest rates, demanded privacy for rape victims in emergency rooms and urged prosecutors to change plea negotiation procedures.

This monumental work, which forever changed the fundamental ways in which men related to women, was done primarily by volunteers. Rape crisis centers had very few resources other than dedicated activists. There was no formal education or professional training regarding how to do anti-rape work. However, once survivors broke the silence about the terror of rape, women devoted their minds, hearts, time and money to construct and sustain organizations that created the field of anti-rape work. These organizations changed practices in hospitals, police departments, the courts and within the field of psychiatry.

ICWAR received much support as it began its efforts. YWCAs, churches, synagogues, the National Organization for Women, women’s studies programs, the American Association of University Women, United Ways and others pitched in with funds, space and staff time. Several state’s attorneys and legal aid lawyers helped advocates sharpen their advocacy skills. And, the Illinois House Rape Study Committee forged political alliances to pass legislative proposals responsive to the needs of survivors.

Victims and their advocates created rape crisis centers to fill a void – with a definition and purpose different than traditional mental health or social services. With the goals of social change, equality between men and women, and the fundamental principle of victim-centered services, the anti-rape movement offered a new model for institutional change and individual healing. In Illinois, this model gained recognition and credibility with each new accomplishment.

ICWAR had multiple occasions to celebrate legislative victories. The Rape Victims Emergency Treatment Act standardized the collection of medical evidence. The Rape Shield Law made the victim’s sexual history irrelevant in a trial. The Illinois Criminal Sexual Assault Act overhauled sex crime statutes. Federal and state statutes authorized new categories of victim service funds.

The first funding for sexual assault crisis centers, $148,889, was distributed by ICWAR to 12 centers in 1982. Later that year, four more centers were funded. Subsequent funds enabled centers to hire advocates, counselors and educators. Since 1982, centers have developed specialized services to meet the needs of children, adult survivors of child sexual abuse, teens and male victims. They have standardized volunteer training and developed curricula for conducting education and training programs. They have implemented protocols with hospitals and law enforcement agencies.

ICWAR changed its name to the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) in 1984 and, with its many colleagues and supporters, continued to change the way the state responded to rape. Also in 1984, passage of the Illinois Violent Crime Victims Assistance Act made funds available for increased counseling and advocacy with victims of sexual assault. On the federal level, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) passed Congress, promising future funding for victim services. In 1986, ICASA received its first allocation of federal VOCA funds from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. Rape crisis centers hired full-time advocates and 16 centers established specialized counseling services for children.

Victim rights continued to receive a boost in 1994 when the Violence Against Women Act was passed by Congress and signed into law. Two years later, ICASA received its first VAWA funding from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority.

ICASA rape crisis centers have greatly expanded services to victims across the state since its beginning. Currently, ICASA consists of 30 sexual assault crisis centers, which operate 57 satellite offices and one program development rape crisis center.

Through the coalition, the centers adopted standards for local centers and created a governance structure to allocate funds, track contract compliance, and provide technical assistance to help centers maintain services in their communities. ICASA continues to work on the cutting edge of legislative reform and to advocate for social change and the elimination of the oppressions that promote sexual violence.

ICASA's 40th Anniversary Video Celebration

25th Anniversary Celebration Newsletter

1975 - Victims Emergency Treatment Act passes the Illinois General Assembly and is signed into law.

1977 - Illinois Coalition of Women Against Rape (ICWAR) is formed.

1977 - Illinois Coalition of Women Against Rape (ICWAR) is formed.

1978 - Rape Shield Act becomes law for sexual assault victims in Illinois.

1981 - Federal Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant is signed into law. Illinois Department of Public Health receives allocation with designation for Rape Crisis and Rape Prevention.

1982 - ICWAR receives first Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant allocation of $148,889. ICWAR creates its first Contracts Review Committee and allocates funds to twelve centers.

1983 - Illinois Criminal Sexual Assault Act is signed into law, revising Illinois rape and incest statutes.

1983, 1984 - Confidentiality of Statements Made to Rape Crisis Personnel grants absolute privilege to sexual assault victims.

1984 - Illinois Violent Crime Victims Assistance Act is signed into law, making funds available for counseling and advocacy.

1984 - ICWAR changes its name to the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA).

1984 - Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) passes Congress; states receive notice of future funding for victim services.

1985 - ICASA receives one-time grant from the Illinois Department of Public Aid for counseling services.

1985 - ICASA granted its first allocation of state General Revenue Funds.

1986 - ICASA receives its first allocation of federal VOCA funds from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

1988 - Law is passed prohibiting polygraph examination of sexual assault victims.

1988 - Hearsay Exception is granted to child sexual assault victims under the age of 13.

1991 - Civil Statute of Limitations for Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse becomes law.

1992 - Citizens vote "yes" for the Illinois Constitutional Amendment for Victims Rights.

1994 - ICASA receives allocation for the SACY Project from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

1994 - The Violence Against Women Act is passed by Congress and signed into law.

1996 - ICASA receives VAWA funding from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

1997 - Sex Offender Management Board created by Illinois General Assembly.

1997 - Law is passed allowing a defendant's previous victims to testify about defendant's "prior bad acts," whether reported or not.

1997 - ICASA celebrates its 20th Anniversary with friends and colleagues.

1998 - Law is passed which makes giving a person a "date rape drug" before sexually assaulting her/him an aggravating factor to the crime.

1998 - ICASA and DHS, using VAWA funds, develop a media campaign that includes television and radio spots directed at male responsibility for rape.

1999 - ICASA, with DHS, begins evaluation of its crisis intervention services.

1999 - Law is passed to extend the criminal statute of limitations in sexual assault cases of an adult victim to ten years past the time of the rape and ten years past the age of 18 for minor victims.

1999 - ICASA moves into a newly constructed administrative office building at 100 N. 16th Street in Springfield.

1999 - Law is passed creating pilot Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs in four Illinois hospitals.

1999 - ICASA, with VAWA funding, begins a two year evaluation of its prevention education programs in Illinois schools.

1999 - Law is passed that allows a victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse to request that the State's Attorney file a petition to have the court records of the case sealed.

2000 - Law is passed permitting minor sexual assault victims 13 through 17 years to consent to the release of her or his evidence collection kit to be analyzed for evidence for prosecution.

2002 - ICASA co-hosts with the Centers for Disease Control the National Sexual Violence Prevention Conference in Chicago.

2003 - Extended criminal statute of limitations to 38 years, no reporting.

2004 - Civil No Contact Order passed by legislature.

2004 - ICASA publishes Inside the Classroom prevention education curriculum kit

2005 - Changes to Restitution and Victim Compensation Statutes.

2007 - ICASA celebrates 30th anniversary.

2007 - ICASA begins participation in ongoing Illinois Imagines project.

2011 - ICASA undertakes outcome measures evaluation survey of Illinois rape crisis centers.

2012 - ICASA hosts National Sexual Assault Conference Aug. 22-24 in Chicago.

2014 - Marsy's Law passed in Illinois.

2017 - ICASA celebrates 40th Anniversary.

2018 - ICASA hires Carrie Ward as its second Executive Director. Ward replaces Polly Poskin, who retired after 36 years as Executive Director.

2022 - ICASA celebrates 45th Anniversary

Find a crisis center near you.

ICASA member rape crisis centers are located across Illinois and provide services to approximately 98% of the state's population.

Contact with an ICASA center is completely confidential.

Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA)

100 North 16th Street, Springfield, IL 62703 USA

Phone: +1 217-753-4117 • Fax: (217) 753-8229

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