This appeared in the Guardian today.
After this month, victims of pedophile priests in the Catholic church will no longer be able to find justice – at least, not in Hawaii or Minnesota, two states that extended the statute of limitations (SOL) after a renewed wave of allegations came to light in 2013. This is yet another perfect example of our country’s willful ignorance about rape and sexual abuse.
Why are there SOLs in these cases at all? There shouldn’t be.
Removing statutes of limitations (protection for defendants)? Surely Andy Kopsa will explain why this should be with reason and evidence. I’ll just wait for you to finish laughing because this is the Guardian and rational discourse is not what the Guardian specializes in.
It’s already impossible in most other states for victims of rape and sexual assault within or beyond the bounds of the church to gain justice, since SOLs vary wildly from state to state but are often impossibly short. Alabama, to offer just one example, gives victims above aged 16 three years to file a criminal complaint in the case of felony sexual abuse. (Civil SOLs are comparatively longer and easier to pursue; criminal cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, while civil suits hinge on the lower bar of providing a preponderance of evidence.)
Some states allow cases to be filed beyond the SOL deadline if definitive DNA evidence is found. It should be noted Alabama isn’t one of them, but they aren’t alone. States have similar windows, and stratify abuse into categories like “forcible” rape or rape with the “threat of harm”. Threat of harm? Rape is itself harm.
In criminal cases, a defendant is at hazard for their freedom or life. In a civil case, the most you will lose is property/money. Oh, and Alabama is so unenlightened when it comes to rape they used to execute people for rape until 1959. Andy’s ignorance of legal distinctions is also pretty comical. He sees “forcible” rape and “rape with the threat of harm” and proceeds to assume the the former implies that rape is not harmful. Well, Andy, the former does not imply such and the latter “threat of harm” typically means that “you coerced this person into unlawful sexual contact” instead of putting a gun to their head or beating them or wrestling them down and raping them. Of course, Andy, being the idiot propagandist, can’t resist the opportunity to get his little soapbox and declare “rape is itself harm.” No shit, Sherlock.
Meanwhile, there is a staggeringly unacceptable backlog of untested rape kits in America, as well as loads of research showing that it can take years for victims to feel ready to come forward with their stories.
I had a conversation with Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo School of Law, last year about this very issue. I asked her what on earth keeps SOLs in cases of sexual assault from being expanded or abolished. Victim-blaming, essentially.
“The only argument lofted against liberalizing the statute of limitations against child sexual abuse offenders,” according to Hamilton, is that, “it will increase the likelihood of false claims.” While false claims are concerning, Hamilton notes, that argument doesn’t hold water. “There are very few false claims as an empirical matter,” she told me.
The same can be said for adult victims of rape – especially women. While there have been a couple of high-profile rape allegations in recent months that fell apart upon scrutiny – the Rolling Stone story, and the Duke Lacrosse scandal – generalizing that women lie about rape all the time is a canard that’s easily debunked. Only 2–8% of rape or sexual assault claims are false. To be crystal clear: that 2–8% comprise claims when the accuser knew for certain that the accused was innocent, and assaults are often much less clearcut.
Except nobody is saying that women lie about rape all the time. People opposing the cult of “Believe Her”-ism are asking for this little thing called evidence sufficient to overcome reasonable doubt. And it’s pretty damn amusing every time a member of the Cult of “Believe Her”-ism repeats the holy cant of “only 2%-8%” (a statement that is deceptive, but deserves deeper treatment) is essentially telling the men who have done five, ten, twenty, thirty years for rapes they didn’t commit “FUCK YOU, you are collateral damage in our holy crusade against ‘rape culture’ and ‘patriarchy.'” “Kill them all (rape defendants). God will know His own” is his mentality while flagellating the Catholic Church for pedophile priests. Okay, Andy.
With respect to rape kits, what is a rape kit and what is its purpose? A rape kit contains vials, swabs, plastic bags, combs, slides, envelopes. The purpose is to collect and preserve evidence in order to identify the suspect in a sexual assault case. A rape kit is for evidence and identification. So why is the cult of “Believe Her”-ism making rape kits an issue? Because they cite a naked number of rape kits without discussing WHY they aren’t tested. According to the State of Florida, it’s 13,400 rape kits are untested because 41% of those people refuse to pursue the charges. That’s right, you can get a rape kit, and then refuse to cooperate with law enforcement and the prosecution. In other cases, rape kits are sitting on the shelves because the prosecutor declined to prosecute, or the person didn’t want to file a police report, or, and this is the big one, the accused party pled guilty. So there is more nuance to the matter of criminal justice than “END THE BACKLOG” and “#TESTTHEKITS.” But Feminists and Progressives don’t deal in nuance. Or facts. Or reason. They deal in slogans, deceptions, and sophistry.
Also notice that no one in the Cult of Believe Her-ism is passing the hat around to collect money to test these kits. But Anita Sarkeesian can get $200,000 donated to her to peddle bullshit about video game characters.
We need statute of limitation reform of both criminal and civil SOLs. Expanding SOLs will not solve the rape crisis, but they can be a vital part of a societal and systemic overhaul of how we talk about rape, treat victims of rape and mete out punishment to the abusers. I have cautious optimism that there are better days ahead: Pennsylvania is trying to reopen a window for its victims, and more states are likely to follow suit.
Andy offers no proof as to what eliminating the Statutes of Limitations will do, but makes a speculative claim that it will help with “talking,” and “treatment” and “punishment.” Well Andy, let’s break this down: One of the reasons that society via the government implemented statutes of limitations are to motivate a plaintiff of complainant to pursue their claims with all haste for the good of the defendant and society. When claims are fresh, the defendant can more easily gather fresh evidence to rebut the plaintiff/complainant’s claims against them. Society benefits because if the defendant is a bad actor, then they can be identified and punished before they subject another member of society to their bad acts. But we can’t protect society or the defendant’s rights if the plaintiff/complainant sits on their tongues for 30 years until they are finally comfortable and the stars are in proper alignment for them to pursue their claim.
Statute of limitation reform could be a tangible and relatively immediate start – with strong legislative leadership at the state and federal level – as part of a broader strategy to encourage reporting, promote understanding of rape in a real way, and hold rapists and pedophiles to account. Hawaii and Minnesota ending their SOL extensions goes in the wrong direction.
“Could be,” huh? This is the utopian progressive’s mentality. Shred the defendant’s rights to defend themselves properly, make false accusations easier, allow bad actors to continue to plague society when the plaintiff/complainant could have opened a case against them, and maybe, MAYBE, we’ll get some nebulous “understanding of rape in a real way.”