SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Survivors of domestic and sexual abuse can now have an easier option to receive updates on the people who hurt them. The Illinois VINE system can send users the latest information on the court cases and custody of offenders.
Many people struggle to find out where their abusers or perpetrators are because they frequently move within the prison and court system. Attorney General Kwame Raoul says Illinois VINE is a step in the right direction.
VINE is short for victim information and notifications everyday. Illinois is now one of several states using the free system to keep survivors up to date.
"I always said before the pandemic that domestic abuse and crimes against people were the pandemic because it is so rampant," said Gina Lusardi.
The Rochester native is the founder and CEO of Speak Out, Get Out, Stay Out. Lusardi says people normally jump through many hoops to find perpetrators.
She also explained many survivors are unaware when their abuser leaves the Department of Corrections. Sometimes they find out if a family member or friend heard about it or saw them on the street.
"When they are not informed and when they're surprised by that, then the PTSD kicks in. They're being re-victimized," Lusardi said. "That's traumatizing. I think this is something they enacted so victims can stay informed."
Direct feedback from survivors and service providers
Raoul wanted to boost the Crime Victims Bureau in the Attorney General's office shortly after he started in 2019. He asked the team to get feedback about what the office did right and what they could do better for survivors.
"Some of the advancements that we've embraced come as a result of getting direct feedback from crime survivors and those who are on the front lines servicing crime survivors throughout our state," Raoul said.
He feels the VINE resource will become popular since many asked for this type of service. The site also has options for people to find providers in their area, whether they need crisis support, legal services, or counseling.
"We can provide reference through this system of service providers within the geographic area where a crime survivor may be living," Raoul said.
"They're opening that door so that they can get the help they need," Lusardi said. "They can get the resources they need so they don't have to feel like they're trapped at the day that they were victimized."
The service is available for survivors, family members, or close friends. You can register for notification of changes in the offender's custody or court status. People can receive a text, email, call, or message through the app itself.
"I can feel a bit safer"
Advocates feel this option will help people have critical information at their fingertips.
"It helps track what's going on, where they're at," Lusardi said. "How close are they to me now that they've been transferred or how far [away are they] so that I can feel a bit safer."
Lusardi calls VINE a great modern-day service since many people turned to online options during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can find this resource at vinelink.com or by calling 1-866-5-NOTIFY.
Raoul also noted there's still more to do to help survivors. He thinks the state should invest more in trauma-informed services such as crime victim compensation.
The Attorney General explained the percentage of victims applying for the funds available for burial and counseling services isn't as high as it should be. He said that's partially due to the trauma people go through following a violent crime.
"That trauma itself is difficult to deal with," Raoul said. "And it's difficult for that person to have the confidence to bring themselves together to seek out services. So, it's important that we continue to invest and that we invest more in trauma-informed services."