On International Women's Day, two female lawmakers are attempting to make what they believe to be long-overdue changes to Minnesota's statute of limitations on sexual offenses.
State DFL Rep. Ilhan Omar and Sen. Sandy Pappas have proposed a bill that would repeal the statute of limitations on criminal sexual conduct and sex trafficking.
If passed, the law would apply to sexual assault or trafficking offenses from Aug. 1, 2018 onwards.
Why are they doing this?
In a statement, Rep. Omar says she was motivated to write the bill after meeting with survivors of sexual violence who said they felt limitations within the justice system "can lead to re-victimization and a feeling of helplessness."
“The current statute of limitations for these crimes are simply arbitrary dates that don’t help survivors of sexual violence reach justice,” she said. "We want to help survivors have as many choices and tools to seek justice as possible, whenever they are ready to do so.”
The #MeToo movement has led to many more survivors of sexual violence to share their stories, and the two lawmakers say they want them to feel supported.
Given that some victims can take many years before they report sexual assault, and sometimes don't report it at all, repealing the statute of limitations for the offenses would give them more options so they don't feel pressured to meet a deadline.
Sen. Pappas said: "By making this change, we can guarantee that survivors can come forward when they are ready, and begin the process of seeking justice at the time that they choose without arbitrary restrictions in law."
What is the current statute of limitations?
Current Minnesota law differs depending on whether the victim is an adult or child, according to the Minnesota Sexual Violence Justice Institute.
If the victim is a minor and the charge is 1st-4th degree criminal sexual conduct, a complaint must be filed within 9 years of the offense, or within three years of when the offense was reported to police.
If the offense is 5th degree criminal sexual conduct, the statute of limitations is 3 years.
For adults, offenses of 1st-3rd degree criminal sexual conduct carries a 9 year stature of limitations, which reduces to 3 years for 4th and 5th degree.
There is currently no statute of limitations for 1st-3rd degree criminal sexual conduct if DNA evidence is preserved and the crime happened after Aug. 1, 2000.