Sexual Assault : ‘victims Act’ Gets Support from Both Sides of the Aisle
By Beth Cone Kramer
April 14, 2016
JUSTICE--In California, murder and embezzlement cases don’t face the clock ticking on a statute of limitations. Per California law, the prosecution of felony sexual offenses is generally limited to ten years following the offense, barring DNA evidence, which may buy extra time. The bipartisan Justice for Victims Act (SB 813), which passed the Senate Public Safety Committee earlier this week, is posed to change that.
The legislation, sponsored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, would allow indefinite criminal prosecution of rape and other felony sex crimes, including continuous sexual abuse of a child.
“I introduced the ‘Justice for Victims Act’ earlier this year for a simple reason: It will help to ensure that rapists and sexual predators are not able to evade justice simply because of a shortened statute of limitations,” the senator shares. “Survivors of sexual assault should always have the ability to seek justice in a court of law, even years after the alleged crime was committed.”
Senator Leyva notes that the bill would not impact the burden of proof but would provide victims more time to come to terms with the assault and to build up courage to come forward to authorities. Supporters of the bill include San Bernardino County DA Michael Ramos, California Women’s Law Center Executive Director Betsy Butler, Assembly Member Mike Gipson, and women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred.
SB 813 has strong bipartisan support from legislators, including principal co-authors Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills,) Assembly Member Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson,) Assembly Member Das Williams (D-Carpinteria) and Assembly Member Autumn R. Burke (D-Inglewood) on the Democrat side of the aisle. Republican supporters include co-authors Rocky J. Chavez (R-Oceanside) and Assembly Member Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale.)
“As a Principal co-author on Senate Bill 813, I am proud to support this legislation,” noted Assembly Member Gipson. “Sexual assault is one of the most personally invasive crimes that can be committed against someone leading to deep pain and life-long trauma. When we think about the emotional pain that is held by the survivors of sexual assault, it is only made worse by the knowledge that you are helpless in receiving justice. SB 813 is long overdue, but will serve to ensure that if these crimes happen in the future, the state of California will have an effective remedy for the survivors who deserve closure. I serve as a proud male ally on this issue.”
The “Justice for Victims Act” is co-sponsored by San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos and the California Women’s Law Center (CWLC) and supported by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, California Police Chiefs Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, Crime Victims United of California, End Rape SOL, National Association of Social Workers, among others.
Critics of extending the statute of limitations often point to the difficulty in mounting a prosecution or defense due to destruction of evidence including emails, text messages, and surveillance video, as well as diminished memory for details.
However, sexual assault victims may be reluctant to come forward at first, as emotional reactions may include self-doubt and shame, as well as the awareness that very few cases end in conviction. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), for every 100 rapes, 32 will be reported to law enforcement; 7 will lead to arrest; 3 will be brought to prosecution; 2 will lead to felony convictions; and 2 will spend a day in prison.
Eliminating the statute of limitations should be just one of the steps taken to ensure justice for sexual assault victims. We need to provide better support to encourage victims to come forward, ensure speedier processing of rape kits, and continue efforts to educate a