SALEM — Adult victims of child sex abuse implored Oregon legislators on Monday to eliminate the legal deadline for prosecutors for file charges against alleged abusers.
Prosecutors are prohibited from filing charges in child sex-abuse cases after the victim turns 30, or 12 years after the child reports the abuse to authorities, whichever comes first.
The House Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would eliminate that deadline for certain sex crimes if the victim is a minor and the abuser is an adult. The committee heard public testimony Monday but did not vote on the bill.
It can take decades for children who are sexually abused to admit they’ve been abused and to be comfortable coming forward to authorities, proponents said, and those people should have the opportunity to pursue justice against their abuser.
Laura Alexander said she was sexually abused as a child by a relative during family gatherings over the holidays. When she finally was ready to press charges and flew to Texas, where the abuse occurred, a detective told her the statute of limitations had expired, she said during a rally outside the Capitol Monday.
“I felt betrayed by the law, by the system that was supposed to protect me,” Alexander told The Associated Press.
Critics worry about a defendant’s right to a fair trial. Witnesses die or their memory fades, and documents are destroyed as time passes, they said.
The statute of limitations is “not a mere technicality,” Gail Meyer, a lobbyist for the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, told the Judiciary Committee. “It really does underscore and serve and make concrete key foundational principles in our system of justice, which happens to be the best in the world,” Meyer said.
The measure would apply only to crimes committed in the future, and only to first-degree rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration, sexual abuse and incest. Other child-abuse charges, including child pornography, strangulation and promoting prostitution would continue under the existing statute of limitations.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.