California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Sept. 28 that will remove the statute of limitations on sex crime cases, an act that will help people find justice for heinous crimes committed against them, even if the crimes.
The new law allows “the prosecution of rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation, and sexual penetration, that are committed under certain circumstances, as specified, to be commenced at any time,” according to the text of the law. It will go into effect in January 2017 and does not lift the statute of limitations for cases that have expired cases before then.
Previously, the statute of limitation for sex crime cases in California was 10 years. The law, known as the Justice for Victims Act, is believed by some to have been inspired by the Bill Cosby cases, according to the Sept. 28 National Public Radio article, “California eliminates statute of limitations on rape cases,” by Merrit Kenney.
In Cosby’s case, only one of the over 50 alleged victims can prosecute in criminal court because she was within the 10 year timeframe, as reported by VICE in the Oct. 3 article, “California is removing the statute of limitations for rape,” by Alexis Linkletter. This is a phenomenal step forward for all future cases. Not only will this new law help people seek justice when they are ready to come forward, it will also help people who were sexually abused as children.
Before this law, children who had sex offenses committed to them had until their 40th birthday to commence prosecution. While 10 years and giving children until their 40th birthday may seem like a significant amount of time, being the victim of a sex crime causes serious emotional trauma that holds people back from speaking up.
Putting a timeframe on justice is an act of injustice in itself. It takes years for many victims to come to terms with what happened to them. They have to build up the courage to recount their story to strangers who might not even believe them.
There is also no guarantee their abuser will receive the proper punishment.
Sexual assault is already one of the most underreported crimes in the country. The Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network reports that about two out of three sexual assaults are not reported to the police and only 2 percent of perpetrators will go to jail or prison.
With this new law, California is showing its support toward victims. It is encouraging them to seek justice for the terrible act committed to them without putting pressure on them because time is running out.
Now there will be one less reason allowing rapists to walk free despite facing trial.