When it comes to sex crimes, a vast majority of them go unreported. Unfortunately, those that are reported rarely result in justice. In fact, in a report conducted by the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, of the few sexual assaults that are reported each year, only about “9% of rapists get prosecuted. Alarmingly, only 5% of cases lead to a felony, and 3% of rapists see jail time.” As for the other 97%? Well, they walk free.
Fortunately, lawmakers in certain areas of the country want to change all of this. Lawmakers in New York will tackle a proposal “this year to lift the statute of limitations on sex crimes.” This is huge news, because if it passes, it will give survivors of sexual assault more time seek justice by filing lawsuits or seeking criminal charges against their abusers. The bill would also “create a “one-year window for past victims to file civil suits even if the statute of limitations has already run out.” As it stands right now, survivors of child sex abuse have until they’re 23-years-old to bring charges against their abusers. However, many supporters of the bill agree that setting such a short time frame for reporting such crimes is unfair, considering the fact that it can take years before a survivor feels comfortable or safe enough to step forward and report a crime.
This isn’t the first time this proposal has been introduced, though. However, when it’s been brought to the table in previous years, it has been met with opposition from well-known institutions, including the Catholic Church. Opposition to the bill has prompted many to label the state a “national shame when it comes to getting justice for victims” of sex abuse, including child sex abuse. Many have even pointed out that other states, including Georgia and Florida, are beginning to pass bills to lengthen the “time that victims have to bring their cases to court.”
But why are sexual abuse reports so low to begin with? Well for starters, not all survivors think it’s necessary to report their abuse in order to move on with life. Others feel as though the criminal justice system merely re-victimizes them when they actually do come forward and are content seeking services provided by rape crisis and recovery centers. Other reasons why survivors of sexual assault do not report their abuse include the following list from the report conducted by the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault:
- Fear of reprisal
- Personal matter
- Reported to a different official
- Not important enough to respondent
- Belief that the police would not do anything to help
- Belief that the police could not do anything to help
- Did not want to get offender in trouble with law
- Did not want family to know
- Did not want others to know
- Not enough proof
- Fear of the justice system
- Did not know how
- Feel the crime was not “serious enough”
- Fear of lack of evidence
- Unsure about perpetrator’s intent
Hopefully, as awareness for sexual abuse increases and more services become available to survivors, more will feel comfortable coming forward to report their abuse. Until then, we can only hope that bills like the one being debated in New York will be passed so that more will find the justice they deserve.