- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - An Oregon Senate panel advanced legislation Wednesday that would expand the length of time rape or sexual assault victims have to seek charges against their abusers, doubling it from six to 12 years.

Even so, some sexual assault victims want the statute of limitations expanded to 20 years or done away with completely.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary voted unanimously to send the measure to the full Senate but also opted to convene a work group to study whether the statute of limitations should be extended further. Eugene Democratic Sen. Floyd Prozanski, chair of the committee, said the 12-year concession is intended as a stopgap while the work group revisits the issue.

Several victims of sexual assault testified that their cases were never put on trial because the time limits on prosecutions had run out when they were ready to come forward.

“Five men have raped me in my lifetime. And I have never, I will never see justice for any of them. The only person who has suffered for their crimes is me,” said Brenda Tracy, who has alleged that four men, including two Oregon State University football players, raped her at a party in 1998.

The four men were arrested, but prosecutors didn’t press charges because Tracy decided not to participate in the case. Sixteen years later, Tracy said she “couldn’t be silent anymore,” but the statute of limitations has passed.

Tracy said she was first raped by a babysitter’s boyfriend when she was 9, back when the statute of limitations was three years. She didn’t report the crime until she was 12, after the reporting period was up, she said.

The committee didn’t take action on two amendments that had been proposed Tuesday, one which extended the limits to 20 years and one that eliminated them altogether.

Opponents of the measure say the current statute of limitations recognizes that evidence corrupts over time, such as memories that decay or evidence, like text messages, that can disappear.

“In our world though we see a very unfortunate and unpleasant truth. All allegations of sexual assault don’t look the same. Some simply are not true, some simply are not accurate. And the way in which the criminal justice system today resolves that is through tangible evidence that exists and that can be found shortly after the allegations are raised,” said Gail Meyer, a lobbyist for the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

The new statute of limitations would apply to rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration and sexual abuse, all in the first degree.

The proposal now goes to the Senate.


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