Lawmakers poised to increase statute of limitations for sexual assault

Washington lawmakers are set to give sexual assault victims an easier path to justice, but not before the legislation survived a close call Tuesday.

Currently, rape survivors often find the clock has run out on justice.

“I can tell you that childhood sexual abuse victims are like the car that once hit just keeps taking damage. You are marked in a way irresistible to other predators,” Jana Peterson said in tearful testimony before lawmakers last year

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Currently, victims younger than 18 have until their 30th birthday to report the sexual assault. The statute of limitations is 10 years for most adult victims.

The proposed new law eliminates the statute of limitations for juveniles. It also doubles the statute of limitations for adult victims to 20 years.

The legislation passed the Senate unanimously and was on its way to passing the House.

It passed the House Public Safety Committee on Monday but lost two votes from those worried that eliminating the statute of limitations would be too harsh on juveniles accused of rape.

“I know that you've already made a commitment to after this bill is passed to go back and start working on the juvenile side of things and I look forward to being a part of that but until then I'll be voting no,” said Renton Democratic Rep. Eric Pettigrew.

Advocates for survivors saw victory slipping away after four years of fighting for change.

Mary Ellen Stone heads the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. “Juvenile offenders need treatment, I couldn't agree more. Victims of sexual assault need the elimination of the statute of limitations to create a climate that encourages them to come forward if and when they choose to do so,” she said.

Then minutes after our first interview with Stone---

A spokesman for Seattle Democrat Noel Frame, told us she's decided not to file an amendment seeking to retain a statute of limitations for juvenile assaults. Thus, paving the way for final passage.

Stone responded, “I can't stress enough what a historic time this is. This is one of the biggest things the state has done for victims of sexual assault easily in 20 years.”

The legislation is expected to move to final passage soon.