June 20, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
The Assembly passed a bill Wednesday introduced by Aravella Simotas that would increase the statute of limitations for both second degree rape and incest.
Victims of these crimes would have 20 years to report them, quadrupling the current five year limit. The bill was also passed by the senate.
The bill, which has yet to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, also increases the statute of limitations for third degree rape to 10 years.
“Sexual assaults are uniquely difficult to prosecute and leave lasting physical, psychological and emotional impacts on survivors,” Simotas said. “Despicably, these crimes are often perpetrated against those who are least able to speak up for themselves. No one, and especially not our most vulnerable, should be denied justice because the law provides an inadequate window of time to come forward.”
The statute of limitations for first degree rape was removed entirely in 2006. The majority of rapes, however, are prosecuted as second and third degree rape due to the high burden of proof involved in pursuing a first degree charge, including proving forcible compulsion or physical helplessness.
Simotas, who represents a large portion of Astoria, received praise from various sexual assault survivor and women’s rights groups, lauding the bill as a positive step forward.
“It often takes rape survivors years to grapple with what happened to them and come forward to report their rapist, but New York gives victims among the shortest amount of time to do so — shorter than every other state except North Dakota,” said Chief Strategy and Policy Officer at TIME’S UP Jennifer Klein. “TIME’S UP applauds Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas for shining a light on the urgent need for lawmakers to fix this problem, and working each day to help make it happen.”
Simotas has spent much of her time advocating for sexual assault survivors and introducing legislation to protect them. In 2016, she passed a bill mandating the timely processing of rape kits. Just last year, she ensured that all rape kits would be kept and preserved for 20 years from the time they are collected.
“Together, these changes will ensure that our laws recognize the complex realities of sexual violence and offer survivors the time they need to process their trauma and choose to pursue justice,” Simotas said.