North Texas Daily

Rape statutes of limitations should be abolished

Rape statutes of limitations should be abolished

October 05
00:09 2016

The governor of California signed a bill last Thursday ending the statute of limitations on rape cases. Somewhat inspired by the recent Bill Cosby cases, the bill marks a desperately needed change.

Existing California law puts the statute of limitations on rape cases at 10 years. For many survivors, however, this isn’t enough time. Many states have no statute of limitations for rape, but some have statutes are as few as three years, according to a state-by-state comparison by the National Center for Victims of Crime.

As seen in the Cosby case, it often takes victims years to choose to go to the police. Although many of the states have statutes that allow extended time to decide whether to go to the police, some victims do not press charges. Those statutes don’t take into consideration the immense emotional trauma victims experience.

The Illinois statute of limitations, for instance, is three years, but extends to a decade as long as the victim who reported the rape does so within three years of its occurrence. In many cases, three years isn’t enough time for a victim to feel comfortable enough to report their rape to authorities.

Although a number of victims report right away, everyone handles situations differently. With something as distressing as sexual assault, it sometimes takes months or even years for victims to work through what happened. Victims need time. Statutes of limitations take time away from victims.

Imagine being sexually assaulted. When you decide to report, the authorities tell you there’s nothing they can do. Many rape survivors choose not to report or press charges because of the difficulties of a trial. Even with a compelling testimony, where you could explain what happened in vivid detail, it’s nearly impossible to put a rapist away without tangible proof.

Several opponents of abolishing statutes of limitations claim that victims’ memories fade. They say this could lead to false statements and, therefore, false convictions. But if you think a rape survivor could possibly forget a second of what they went through, you don’t understand assault.

Social attitudes toward victims of sexual assault are overwhelmingly negative. This discourages so many women each year from reporting their assaults. They are constantly berated with questions like, “What were you wearing that night?” or, “How much did you have to drink?” In reality, none of those things matter.

Whether you were sober or wasted, whether you were naked or clothed from neck to ankles, there is no justifiable excuse for rape.

By eliminating its statute of limitations, California is making rape just as heinous a crime as murder. This changes the way people view the crime, and might inspire more victims to come forward.

The states with remaining statutes of limitations, especially those who are only a few years, need to follow California. It’s important for survivors to know their judicial system is behind them.

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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