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States are “behind the curve” when rolling back statutes of limitations for adults who were targeted for sexual abuse, compared to efforts to make justice more accessible for childhood survivors of abuse, Hamilton said, “but there’s no question there’s been some piggybacking.” Some states started more sweeping rollbacks on statutes of limitations for incidents of sexual violence long before the latest series of incidents received national attention.California Senator Connie Leyva, a Democrat from Chino, said women’s law and victims’ rights advocates approached her office in 2015 and asked for a law to remove the criminal statute of limitations from rape cases.But according to 2016 federal data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which monitors reports of unwelcome sexual advances at the workplace, 6,914 incidents of sexual harassment were filed that year. Statutes of limitations are laws designed to protect a person from being prosecuted for a crime after physical evidence has deteriorated, or become less reliable, over time.
Leyva said she hadn’t known victims faced that “arbitrary time limit” and she “found that shocking.” At the same time, scandal enveloped comedian Bill Cosby as women said he had drugged and assaulted them, with claims dating back more than 50 years.Rather than focusing on statutes of limitations, Park said policymakers instead should make sure law enforcement is trained to handle sexual assault cases appropriately.“If a survivor comes out years later, the bias will still be there,” she said.“The onus is on us to seize upon the moment.” With each rollback, she said survivors of sexual abuse have more time to heal before fighting to seek justice.Back in Illinois, Scott Cross has struggled since the 1980s with anger, pain and memories of sexual abuse he endured when Dennis Hastert coached him.
That’s a big problem for victims of sexual violence who may need years or even decades to fully process trauma and understand what happened to them, said Rebecca O’Connor, who directs public policy for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, also known as RAINN, which tracks sexual offense statutes of limitation by state.