Friday, January 1, 2016

No More Statutes of Limitations for Rape

NY Times   THIS week, Bill Cosby was charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. The felony charges stemmed from an incident more than a decade ago, in which Andrea Constand says Mr. Cosby drugged and assaulted her in his home. Mr. Cosby says he intends to fight the charges, and no court has found him liable for sexual misconduct.

The timing of the criminal charges was not arbitrary. The date of the alleged assault was Jan. 15, 2004, and Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault is 12 years: If prosecutors had delayed two and a half weeks, the limit would have tolled.

Mr. Cosby’s public fall in the wake of dozens of accusations has been an education in the reality of sexual assault, especially concerning the long conspiracy of silence, and the weight of shame victims are made to carry, when the suspect is powerful and famous. “I was a teenager from Denver acting in McDonald’s commercials,” wrote Barbara Bowman, another of his accusers, in The Washington Post in 2014. “He was Bill Cosby.”

After decades of unsettling claims and quietly settled lawsuits, Mr. Cosby’s public reputation has gone from America’s dad to America’s creepy uncle. But Mr. Cosby finally faces prosecution only because of a deposition made public in July: If that testimony had been revealed just a few months later, it could have been too late for prosecutors to try this case.

The charging of Mr. Cosby, just under the wire, raises a key question: Why is there a statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault at all? Across the country, 34 states have statutes of limitations on rape, sexual assault or both, ranging from as little as three years up to 30. (A few states also have reporting deadlines tied to statutes of limitations; and a number of states provide for an exemption from statutes of limitations if a DNA match is later made on a reported rape or sexual assault.)

Restrictions on how long charges can be brought after the alleged commission of a crime exist primarily to prevent the deterioration of evidence, but also to promote public order, protect criminal defendants who may have a harder time guarding themselves against long-ago accusations, and encourage plaintiffs to bring cases or report crimes swiftly.

Those are laudable goals that make sense in theory. But in practice, they undermine justice for survivors.[...]

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.