“How many more victims will there be?”
Dawn Price, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, posed that question before the Indiana House Courts and Criminal Code Committee on Wednesday while testifying in support of legislation that would extend the amount of time victims have to prosecute their perpetrators.
Price shared her story of being molested and raped as a child by her adoptive father until she was nearly 13 years old. When Price, then a minor, told her mother what was happening, no action was taken. Even when her father admitted to the allegations and Price eventually told law enforcement, she was told nothing could be done.
Indiana Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, hopes to allow more time for individuals like Price to seek justice through the passing of Senate Bill 109. In its original form, the legislation sought to eliminate the statute of limitations for victims to bring criminal charges against their abusers. Current law says survivors have until age 31 to do so.
Although language removing the statute of limitations was stripped from the bill by a Senate committee, three exceptions consistent to those in a 2015 bill known as “Jenny’s Law” were amended in. If DNA evidence sufficient to charge the offender is discovered, a recording of the crime is revealed or a confession is made, victims who are older than 31 would have five years to pursue a criminal prosecution.
“This is not, from my perspective, a perfect option,” Crider told the House committee. “I would prefer to eliminate the statute of limitations altogether, but it does provide additional opportunities for victims… .”
Camille Cooper, vice president of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, testified in support of the bill but urged the committee to consider extending the statute of limitations by 25 years, in addition to the extra five.
“What I’ve come to understand around the country with regard to completely eliminating the statute of limitations is there is this fear that there will be a swarm of false allegations that come in,” Cooper said. “In the states that don’t have statute of limitations, that’s not what you see. Victims are incredibly reluctant to come forward.”
But Republican Rep. John Young, although in support of SB 109, said he would never support completely removing the statute of limitations on any crime other than murder.
“Frankly, I think five years is being very generous. I think once the state becomes aware of very credible evidence, I don’t see why they need five years to bring this,” Young said.
Considering the burden it would put on the defendant, Young added that he would “fight tooth and nail against anything that would lift the statute of limitations on these crimes.”
“This is an opportunity to have the conversation and not tell the victim, ‘We’re sorry, we’re barred from going forward,’” Crider said of the legislation.
Before voting, an amendment to SB 109 proposed by Crider was approved, removing components previously inserted into the bill concerning civil action.
The legislation passed 10-0 and now moves to the House floor for consideration.