Advocates call on lawmakers to scrap statute of limitations on sex assault

Austin

A coalition of Austin and Travis County advocates want Texas lawmakers to scrap the statute of limitations on sexual assault. 

It’s part of a wide-ranging report from the Austin/Travis County Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team. One key issue within the findings is how reports of sexual assault hardly ever turn into punishment. 

From summer 2016 to summer 2017, 224 reports came into the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. Only 77 were picked up for prosecution. Several pleaded to lesser charges but only one was found guilty as charged.

Dana Nelson is the co-chair of the Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team, who wrote the report and will lobby lawmakers next year to scrap the10-year statute of limitations on adult sexual assault. 

Under current law, there are only two exceptions to the 10-year statute: if the accused has more than 5 charges of sexual assault and if a DNA test comes back with no clear match until later testing. 

“It feels arbitrary right? What is the difference between reporting it in year nine and reporting it in year 11?” asked Nelson. “Really it’s just affording survivors the space and time to report when they’re ready.” 

Lawyer Brian Roark says the change won’t matter much. He says few cases that stretch back more than 10 years have reliable recollections that would help prosecution and defense craft cases they could take to trial.

“Can you remember where you were 20 years ago on today’s date? No. Most people can’t. Can you remember 10 years ago? Can you remember honestly a year ago?” asked Roark.

Last year lawmakers made it easier to prosecute perpetrators of sex trafficking and they’re hoping for the same thing in this case. Lawmakers return to the Capitol in January 2019.

For more information or if you need help, contact:

Survivors of Sexual Assault at Texas Legal Services Center: 1-844-303-7233

SAFE Alliance crisis hotline – 512-267-7233

Austin Police Department Sex Crimes Unit – 512-974-555

APD Victim Services – 512-974-5000

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