Illinois law deals with perpetrators of sex crimes very seriously—when they catch them.
However, studies show that an alarming number of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault crimes go unreported. Victims often feel ashamed, or unsure of whether or not their experience constitutes a crime. This is particularly true in public places like the CTA, where large crowds make it easy for groping to go unnoticed and sexist comments are all too common. In response to this problem, local public transit officials are making some important changes.
To protect passengers from abuse and sexual assault, the CTA has adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy. Riders are urged to report cases to conductors, drivers, customer assistant specialists, or police offers immediately. The CTA has also launched an education campaign to reduce sex crimes, providing employees with special training and safety brochures to riders. In addition, the transportation authority has upped the number of security cameras on transit vehicles and at stations to catch offenders in the act.
Behavior That May Constitute Sexual Harassment or Assault
CTA and law enforcement officials alike are extremely tough on sex crimes, offering suspects little or no leeway. What may seem like a harmless comment or playful pat can land you in serious trouble. Here’s a list of behaviors that are handled with no tolerance on the CTA—or anywhere else in Illinois for that matter.
Unwanted touching. Deliberately touching, patting, stroking, tickling, squeezing, or brushing up against another passenger can constitute harassment. Even mild sexual contact or groping can be interpreted as low- to mid-level sexual assault crimes.
Indecent exposure. In Illinois, you can face public indecency charges if you expose your body to others in a public space in a manner that appears lewd and intentional. A public place is defined as any place where your behavior is likely to be viewed by others—such as the CTA, a bar, or street corner.
Even if of your intent was not sexual, indecent exposure may be treated as a serious offense. You could face public indecency charges for engaging in sex in public, for “flashing” genitals as a joke or dare, or for streaking. And if unwanted contact is made, a public indecency charge could be elevated to sexual assault.
Sexual comments. If you make inappropriate comments, insults, or innuendos of a sexual nature, or ask intrusive sexual questions, you could be charged with verbal assault. Repeated sexual jokes can also be construed as harassment.
Sexually suggestive gestures. Sexually suggestive motions and noises—such as sucking sounds, pelvic thrusts, or licking lips—could also be interpreted as harassment.
Unwanted sexual advances. This could include requests, bribes, or threats for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Even asking for a date could be interpreted as harassment if you do so persistently.
Unwanted exposure to pornographic images. If you pressure or coerce someone into looking at pornographic images—for instance, on your phone or in a magazine—you may be charged with sexual abuse. You could also face charges for distributing sexually explicit materials.
Inappropriate stares. Leering, staring, or ogling breasts or genital areas can constitute harassment.
Stalking. In Illinois, stalking is a felony. Criminal stalking is defined broadly and encompasses a wide variety of subjective behaviors. If you follow or track someone on the CTA on at least two separate occasions, you could be charged with stalking.
Whether you are charged with criminal sexual harassment, abuse, or assault, the penalties can be very severe. You are likely to face prolonged or—in some cases—life imprisonment. In addition, you will be required to register as a sex offender, even if you were charged with something as seemingly minor as streaking. In Illinois, becoming a registered sex offender can make it very difficult to find a job, volunteer position, or housing. You also may be banned from many public places, parks, and educational programs. And you’ll be required to re-register as a sex offender every 10 years or if you move to another state.
In short, there’s a lot at stake if you’ve been charged with a sex crime. Not only is your freedom at risk, your reputation and future are as well. A sex crime conviction will follow you the rest of your life and can negatively impact your career, friendships, and romantic relationships.
Don’t gamble with your life and future happiness by neglecting to choose adequate legal counsel and representation. If you’ve been charged with a sex crime, contact a criminal defense lawyer with experience in sexual abuse and assault cases. An effective and aggressive legal defense can help ensure your rights are protected and obtain the best possible outcome for your case.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and violent crimes to theft-related crimes and traffic violations.