OLYMPIA, Wash. - A big step was taken toward justice for sexual assault survivors in Olympia today.
The Washington state House of Representatives today voted 96-0 to make third-degree rape cases easier to prosecute because survivors will no longer have to prove they clearly rejected sexual contact.
“The brain physically shuts the body down, and an individual would not have the ability to express through words that they are not consenting to this experience,” said Andrea Piper-Wentland of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.
Legislation heard by the Senate Law and Justice Committee today would also give victims much longer to report their attacker.
By the time Lisa Flotin realized she'd been sexually abused by a teacher, it was too late. “Due to the statute of limitations, I hit a wall and my abuser would never face criminal charges. learning this fact was the most devastating day of my life.
Often, survivors react to the trauma of rape with silence.
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“I had just been violated in such a deep way that the idea of anyone touching me or asking me questions was terrifying,” said Megan Freney.
Redmond Sen. Manka Dhingra is the lead sponsor of legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations on prosecuting many sexual crimes, especially attacks on children.
“It often takes years for victims of childhood sexual abuse even to acknowledge what has happened to them,” she explained.
Spokane Valley Sen. Mike Padden is sympathetic but believes survivors shouldn't expect too much from prosecutions begun years after the crime.
“The longer you go, you have problems with witnesses, memory, the availability of witnesses. It makes it more difficult.”
Despite the odds, Freney won a conviction in her rape case.
“I hope that working together, we can lessen the burden on future victims,” she said.
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