Assemblywoman Amy Paulin’s bill (A.12012) to eliminate the statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault was passed this past Friday. Paulin’s legislation is one of the most significant bills to become law this session. With the passage of this legislation, victims will be able to pursue justice in both criminal and civil courts; rapists and sex abusers will no longer be able to escape conviction or civil liability because of the mere passage of time. The bill was carried by Dean G. Skelos in the Senate, where it passed on June 21.
“As a former victim of sexual assault, I will live with that night for the rest of my life. It is astonishing that there are those who would seek to limit the opportunity for myself and countless other survivors to seek justice. We now have the power to pursue rapists on criminal grounds – we will be able to keep them from hurting others and to hold them accountable. It is also important that no doors be closed for survivors of these horrible crimes to seek compensation from their attackers for their physical injuries, medical costs and pain and suffering. This change to the law was urgently needed to protect our communities,” said Paulin.
The legislation adds four crimes to the list of offenses for which prosecution may begin at any time, regardless of how long ago the crime occurred: rape in the first degree, criminal sexual act in the first degree, aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree and course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree.
Paulin noted that the change is especially important in the case of rape and sexual assault because of the time it takes victims to report, compared to victims of other crimes. “These are the crimes that are least likely to be to be reported right away,” she said. “Whatever the fears are – fear of domestic violence, fear of humiliation – these victims take longer to come forward with their stories. We must listen to them when they’re ready.”
Before Paulin and Skelos worked out this change to the law, prosecution for rape had to commence within five years of the crime, despite the fact that there are often significant delays in reporting sexual assaults. Their new bill also extends the amount of time that victims have to bring civil suits, from one year to five years.
“The civil and criminal justice options provided for in this legislation are equally important for sexual assault survivors. The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault applauds the informed strategies that have gone into the bill’s creation, providing more safety for innocent victims,” stated Anne Liske, Executive Director of NYSCASA.
“I am so pleased that we passed legislation that will help victims of rape and sexual abuse start to heal,” said Assemblywoman Paulin. “This is a big step forward for those who have been denied justice because of the statute of limitations.”