New California Law Eliminates Statute of Limitations on Sexual Offenses

Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 813, a bill eliminating the statute of limitations on sexual offenses on Sept. 28. Previously, prosecutors had 10 years to file charges against sex offenders or until the victim’s 40th birthday for crimes committed against minors.

The bill was introduced in response to the sexual assault accusations directed at comedian Bill Cosby, who is being charged in California with the sexual assault of a woman, now in her 50s, in 1974.

State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), who authored the legislation, explained in a press release that SB 813 will ensure that victims of sexual violence have the chance to speak out about their case whenever they decide the time is right.

“Governor Jerry Brown’s signature of SB 813 tells every rape and sexual assault victim in California that they matter and that — regardless of when they are ready to come forward — they will always have an opportunity to seek justice in a court of law,” Leyva said. “Rapists should never be able to evade legal consequences simply because an arbitrary time limit has expired.”

While many have welcomed the bill, some have concerns over its potential implementations. According to the Associated Press, a number of civil rights groups and public defenders argue that the bill “could lead to false convictions as memories fade among victims and witnesses.” There are also worries that SB 813 does little to address the underprosecution of sexual assaults and the possibility that victims who come forward years after may face disbelief from law enforcement.

UCSD Associate Vice President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Minh-Hieu Vu shared her thoughts to the UCSD Guardian on how the community still has to do more to counteract rape culture.“I feel that it’s our collective responsibility to foster consent culture in our everyday interactions and unlearn our sexist biases,” Vu told the Guardian. “When survivors know they are supported, they are much more willing to seek justice in a court of law.”

UCSD Sexual Assault Resources Center Director Nancy Wahlig explained to the Guardian that the UC system has already taken measures to prevent sex crimes across its campuses.

“A few years ago, the whole UC system stepped up and increased the educational outreach efforts that [SARC] has done — educating, and hopefully preventing as well as responding to those who experience sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking,” Wahlig told the Guardian. “Six years ago, [UC President Napolitano] put together a task force with police, deans and advocates in order to bring the UC system together to make improvements.”

Wahlig also stated that the combined efforts of UC personnel have resulted in a more efficient system that combats sexual violence across all UC campuses.

“The UC system has not only increased the sexual assault education mandatory for both faculty and students but also improved the administrative process that responds to the victim of the crime,” Wahlig told the Guardian.

SB 813 will go into effect starting Jan. 1, 2017. The new law will have no effect on sexual offenses for which the statute of limitations expires prior to the start of 2017.

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