Olympia state capitol ohymhe

Washington state's time limit to pursue charges against an assailant of adult rape will remain in place for now.

A House bill faced major changes Monday morning after the Senate Law and Justice Committee instead approved a proposed substitute to only eliminate the statute of limitations on first-degree child rape and first-degree child molestation.

Originally, the legislation would have applied to several other serious sex crimes, including rape of any kind.

State law currently allows child rape victims to pursue charges against an assailant until the age of 30; adult sexual assault survivors have only three years to pursue charges, 10 years if they reported it to police within the first 12 months. (Studies show most rape victims do not report the crime to law enforcement.)

But the legislation faced an uphill battle in the Senate with the committee chair, Jamie Pedersen, who has said he opposed removing the statute altogether for the broad range of sex offenses included.

Pedersen has said that the way the bill's written limits lawmakers' ability to make amendments, like extending rather than eliminating the statute for certain crimes. Right now, the only crime without a statute of limitations in the state is murder. 

"It was all I could get and took what I could," representative Dan Griffey told Seattle Met by text. He's said the bill is deeply personal to him; his wife tried to pursue charges against her stepfather when it had been too late. "I will never stop until all are eliminated." 

At the public hearing Monday, several survivors stepped forward with emotional testimony in support of removing the statute. Many of them said they had been sexually abused as children, and explained their process for realizing what had happened and overcoming the shame before they reported it to law enforcement.

Lisa Flotlin said the day she realized her abuser, a high school Spanish teacher, would never face criminal charges because her statute of limitations had passed was "the most devastating day of my life."

"To this day, I am crushed to know that I have ruined my chance at legal action by not arriving at this state sooner," she told the committee. "I often find myself wondering, did he celebrate the passing of this date? Did he walk a little lighter?" 

Many also spoke about the long-term effects of such abuse and how it impacted them to this day. Mary Dispenza, Northwest district director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she buried the truth of the abuse she experienced until she was 52.

Another survivor, Jana Peterson, said she became "another drop of blood...and the sharks can smell you from miles away," having faced assault first as a child, and then later in life. 

Lawmakers in 2013 extended the statute of limitations on child sex crimes by allowing victims to pursue charges until the age of 30; back then, advocates also pushed for eliminating the statute altogether. Before that, the state had a complex law that depended on how old the survivor was when the crime occurred and whether they filed a police report within a certain time. 

Advocates who pushed for Griffey's original bill said eliminating the statute would have encouraged victims to come forward no matter how much time has passed, and would've simplified a complex legal system for survivors to navigate.

The original bill would have removed the statute for the following crimes: first- through third-degree rape and child molestation; sexually violating human remains; first- and second-degree incest; sexual misconduct, commercial sex abuse, sexual exploitation, and promoting travel for commercial sex abuse of a minor. 

Updated 1:15pm on March 5, 2018, to include another survivor's name. 

Show Comments