The New York law gives power back to victims without discouraging due process
Imagine: It’s a beautiful day outside. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and everywhere you turn, children are playing. You were once a child out there on the block, riding scooters and playing kickball with your friends — but that was then, and this is now. And right now, all you can think of is how Mr. Johnson [not a real example] next door sexually abused you as a child.
Back then, you couldn’t tell anyone. There was too much guilt and confusion, but with the New York statute of limitations being extended, you now have the opportunity to expose your abuser and potentially save others from going through the same trauma you experienced. Do you do it?
In September, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that extended the statute of limitations for sex crimes, according to CNN. The statute of limitations has been extended from the traditional five years to 10 years for reporting third-degree rape and 20 years for reporting second-degree rape. This means that people who were sexually abused as children now have more time to report the crimes.
For some, this extension felt much needed, as many people had previously lost their right to report these crimes due to the time constraints. Within the first day of the legislation being passed, hundreds of people reached out to report their abuse.
With so many people coming forward, discussions have arisen whether getting rid of the statute of limitations is a good idea and why it was implemented in the first place. This case also sets a precedent for other highly populated states which may suffer from similar issues as New York.
The statute of limitations was created in 1839 but was revised in 1948. Since then, case studies have shown how the statute of limitations may be challenged, such as Gabelli v. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which debated whether the statute of limitations should begin when a crime is committed or when it is discovered.
The law demands a specific time span to report certain crimes and follow through with proceedings, which vary from one state to another, though there are exceptions. For instance, capital offenses and substantial crimes against the federal government, like terrorism, do not have a statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations is meant to protect the rights of the defendant. The idea is that if too much time passes, evidence might be difficult or impossible to obtain. If this happened, the defendant would not be able to defend themselves properly in court and could, by extension, might be committed of a crime they did not commit.
New York’s legislation creates a compromise where the defendants’ rights are still preserved while giving alleged victims the right to come forward.
This is a crucial step towards bettering our society in the U.S., as many children do not report sexual abuse for a variety of reasons. Some might be scared of what their abusers will do to them if they tell, especially if threatened. Others might feel deep guilt over the crimes, or may fear what their loved ones would say. Some are simply too young to understand what is happening to them and may not know how to cope.
The longer these victims go without help, the worse the situation can become for them, as many people who experienced sexual assault as children grow up to have mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. It is also common for such victims to self mutilate, become reliant on substance abuse and develop a mistrust towards others.
In the end, New York’s legislation to extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse is a step forward towards helping victims without overturning America’s values of due process. The state sets a precedent for others to follow by recognizing its citizens and those most in need.
The law doesn’t fix the problem of sexual abuse, but it does help. It gives victims a chance to come forward and resolve the issues that have plagued them. It offers a chance at closure and a platform for those victims to be heard by those people who have the power to help. All of America will watch this issue unfold and maybe from this one act that gives power back to the victims, other states will follow suit.