Imagine the plight of a rape survivor when they are told they can no longer file a lawsuit because they took too long to report the incident.
Sexual crime laws differ from state to state. Residents have anywhere between three years to a lifetime to report a sex crime. Fortunately, the state of California has just passed a bill to end the time limit for prosecuting rape and felony sex crimes — a move inspired by the allegations against Bill Cosby.
Under the Golden State’s existing laws, sex crimes must be put on trial within 10 years of the incident, unless DNA evidence emerges after this period or the victim is underage. In the case of minors in California, the crimes must be prosecuted before the victim turns 40.
Cosby has been accused of assaulting more than 35 women during the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s but in many of the cases, the statute of limitations expired.
“There are some crimes that are so heinous that there should never be a statute of limitations,” Assemblyman Travis Allen told the Los Angeles Times.
Assemblyman Mike Gipson also agreed and called the move “long overdue.” He also added the new legislation would “ensure that criminals be placed in jail,” no matter what charges have been brought against them.
Most sex crime incidents are not reported to the police and out of those that are, only 9 percent of rapists get prosecuted, 5 percent result in a felony conviction and 97 percent of rapists get away scot-free.
The lack of prosecution springs partly from the reluctance of the survivors to come forward directly after the assault. Often they report the crime after they have received some counseling, the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault reported. However, time is of the essence in states which have a statute of limitations and if too much time passes, the perpetrator is protected from prosecution.
The groundbreaking bill has now been passed to the state Senate, and if Gov. Jerry Brown signs it, crimes including child abuse and sexting could be prosecuted at any time.
Although the bill won’t be retroactive, it will at least ensure the protection of future sexual assault survivors, no matter when they come forward and hopefully, will act as a deterrent to sexual abuse.