A proposal to extend the time limits on prosecuting child sex crimes received a public hearing Feb. 5.
House Bill 1352, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Spokane, would extend the time victims of sex crimes as children have to bring a predator to justice. If the bill passes, victims who were children when the crime occurred could prosecute a suspect up until 10 years after the abuse, or until their 30th birthday, whichever is later. Currently, a statute of limitations for sex crimes with a minor may only allow prosecution until the victim’s 21st birthday.
“As a former police officer and detective, I often saw children who were afraid to speak out about the crimes against them,” Holy said. “This bill is a good balance between the needs of the victims to be heard and the concerns raised about ensuring we have reliable sources in litigation.”
Jenny Graham, a resident of Spokane, was repeatedly sexually abused by her father as a child. She traveled to Olympia to testify in favor of the legislation.
“Often, it is impossible for child victims whose lives are threatened or they are coerced in other ways to disclose abuse, until they are physically and mentally safe to take that risk,” Graham said. “Children become exponentially more vulnerable to additional predators, including human traffickers, as was the case with my sister.”
Former Representative John Ahern also traveled to Olympia to testify about the importance of closure for the victim and deterrence to pedophiles. He has championed similar measures for years.
Other victims and victims’ families testified in favor of the bill, saying children of repeated abuse often repress the memories or suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. Katie, a 32-year-old, testified about the courage it took at her age to speak publicly, and how prosecuting perpetrators empowers the victims and makes the predators look over their shoulder.
The chair of the Public Safety Committee said he was planning to pass the bill out of committee on Feb. 14. The 2013 session began Jan. 14 and is scheduled to last 105 days.