Survivors of child sex abuse shared their stories with state senators in support of the legislation last month.
Survivors of child sex abuse shared their stories with state senators in support of the legislation last month. TVW.ORG

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A bill that originally intended to lift the limit on the period of time survivors of rape and sexual assault have to press charges against their abusers has died in the state Senate.

HB 1155 was, in some ways, a complicated bill. In addition to lifting the statute of limitations for crimes perpetrated by adults, it also included crimes against children—defined in such a way that included juvenile perpetrators, too. While HB 1155 gained overwhelming support in the House of Representatives, a few key voices on sexual assault, including Rep. Noel Frame (D-Seattle), voted against it because of the way the legislation would have treated juveniles.

Nevertheless, by the time the bill reached the state Senate, it had abandoned the goal of lifting the statute of limitations for adult rape survivors altogether. Instead, the amended bill only lifted the statute of limitations for survivors reporting child rape or child molestation. It was voted out of committee, but died before it reached the Senate floor.

Senator Jamie Pedersen, chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said that he was concerned by the breadth of the original bill. "We in Washington State have never had no statute of limitations for crime in which a person has not died," he said. "That's a big change for us."

Asked why his committee abandoned the bill's intent to lift the statute of limitations for adult rape survivors, Pedersen said: "That's a conversation that the committee wanted to have in more depth."

Currently, a rape survivor in Washington State has just one year to report to the crime to police if he or she wants to be able to press charges within the next 10 years. If that survivor fails to make a police report within a year, he or she has three years to press criminal charges.

Pedersen said he believed the current criminal statute of limitations for adult rape survivors "isn't what our policy should be—but to go from that to you have forever, I'm not sure that's good policy either."

Still, Pedersen said he would be dedicating time in the interim between legislative sessions to work on a piece of legislation that would possibly extend the statute of limitations on both criminal charges and civil cases. To bring a civil claim of sexual abuse, a survivor has just three years since the discovery of the harm resulting from that abuse in order to file a claim.

Mary Ellen Stone, executive director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, said in a statement that she was disappointed by the failure of the bill. “We are, however, looking forward to moving this issue forward next year as Senator [Jamie] Pedersen has pledged to do,” Stone said.