This is something I’ve been working on for a while and I haven’t formed all of my thoughts surrounding what an appropriate punishment for rape should be. So I’m just putting this out there. I will also say I have not experienced sexual assault directly but my life has been impacted by the effects it has had on other women in my life.
There are so many scenarios such as incest and molestation from a relative, then there’s this seeming explosion of white female teachers violating their male students that seems to not be taken seriously. There’s acquaintance rape and spousal rape. The flagrant abuses by Catholic priests and others with religious authority has now made headlines. Young women trying to enact boundaries in social settings in high school or college where a male will cross the line. Then there’s the use of rape as a tactic during wars, coups and other military actions. We also cannot forget such tactics are also used against female service members and not by enemy combatants. There are numerous situations. Most assault survivors know their violators.
I’m not sure about all the legal ramifications involved with this, but the statute of limitations on prosecuting sexual assault should be extended at the very least. It varies from state to state but rape and incest have had a 5-year limit. Murder is still prosecutable decades later – why not various forms of rape? It is an act of violence and hatred so why shouldn’t the perpetrator be held accountable? Perhaps it was reading this story of the gang rape of an 8 year old that set me on edge.
Reading these stories about crimes is difficult. As my guest-blogging time at What About Our Daughters closes out I realize what a tough gig it was. I’ll be evaluating what I’ve learned and how it’s changed me as a person and a blogger for quite some time. I do know that I much prefer to evaluate our inner workings as humans and race/ethnic identities than discussing specific criminal acts against women. Being exposed to the aftermath of depravity is sickening but it is necessary for us to know what’s going on so we can respond to it.
Now there are situations where people have been falsely accused and convicted of crimes they didn’t commit from circumstantial evidence. It is so difficult to get a false conviction overturned. We’ve also heard of cases where prisoners have been executed for capital crimes and DNA evidence proved their innocence. It’s a tight rope. On the other hand there are those who are never brought to justice because as many as 60% of the survivors don’t come forward to report their assaults. Also states are not processing rape kits and site lack of funding as an excuse. It’s a lack of priority if you ask me. With the current stats of 1 in 6 women projected as potential assault victims (and 1 in 33 for men) this should be a priority. I bet if 1 in 6 men would be assaulted law enforcement would step in and legislation would attempt to address it. In cases where DNA evidence exists should there be term limits for prosecution? Also how has the legal precedent of 1st degree rape, 2nd, etc. been established and should they be reevaluated as well?
This article at Oregon Live gives much food for thought
In Oregon, only murder has no statute of limitation, meaning there is no time limit for prosecuting the crime. Rape has a six-year limit, although two years ago state lawmakers extended it to 25 years for prosecution of first-degree sex crimes in which DNA evidence has been collected.
But proponents of this session’s bill said the 25-year statute of limitations is not enough to safeguard victims and bring those responsible to justice.“All it does is reward a rapist who’s clever enough to evade capture,” said Christine Herrman, director of the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force.House Bill 3263 would eliminate the statute of limitations for four sex offenses: first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, first-degree sexual penetration and first-degree sex abuse.Don Rees, a Multnomah County senior prosecuting attorney, said the bill is limited to the most violent sex crimes involving physical force and the most vulnerable victims.Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association were careful to express support for Gillmore’s victims but said they respectfully opposed the bill.Andrea Meyer of the ACLU and Gail Meyer of the defense attorneys association said they were concerned that a defendant wouldn’t get a fair trial because witnesses die and memories fade. They also expressed concern about the potential for mishandling or contamination of DNA evidence over such a lengthy time.“You are robbing the defendant of the ability to re-create the event fairly,” Gail Meyer said. She added that the statute of limitations was particularly important to be maintained for sex crimes because “innocent, law-abiding people engage in sex” and could be wrongly implicated, which is not so for other crimes.But the committee didn’t seem swayed by the opponents’ concerns, and the bill has bipartisan support on the committee. Rep. Judy Stiegler, D-Bend, committee vice-chair, said she was “offended” by their logic, emphasizing that the bill deals with the most egregious of sex crimes, in which physical force or children are involved. Rep. Brent Barton, D-Clackamas, called the opponents’ arguments “logically flawed,” describing the bill as narrow in scope. Rep. Jefferson Smith, D-Portland, pointed out that it doesn’t change a prosecutor’s burden of proving a case at trial.Nationally, 14 states have adopted similar legislation, eliminating the statute of limitations in rape cases in which a DNA profile has been obtained. Thirteen other states have eliminated the statute of limitations on the most serious sex offenses, regardless of whether DNA evidence is collected.“It certainly a trend that’s been going on for the last five years, with the mass use of DNA to solve crimes,” said Kristina Korobov, director of the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women. “Certainly the impact of sex assault on a victim and their family can be as devastating as homicide.”
I know there are no easy answers and this is a volatile issue for many reasons. We have to ask the tough questions and explore the options though.