A law going into effect July 1 gives survivors of child sexual abuse seven years to report a crime or four years after the child leaves the care of the alleged perpetrator.
That is an increase from the previous two-year statute of limitations.
Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal says after that time period, his office could not press charges.
Gaal says if child abuse survivors now have more time to report, prosecutors will have more opportunities to pursue a case.
“That’s a good reason for extending the statute of limitations so that we’re not having to decline prosecuting a case simply because there’s been delayed reporting, when in fact delayed reporting is a common thing that occurs in these types of child sex abuse cases,” Gaal says.
Heather Maritano is licensed social worker for Inner Resources Counseling in Bloomington. She says many victims take years to come forward because they are still dealing with the trauma and reporting can be especially difficult for young children.
“If you’re a two year old and you’re sexually abused you’re not really going to have the ability to be a good witness for yourself in a court case until you’re much older, so that two year window for younger victims is really detrimental,” Maritano says.
While this new law means it’s unlikely any physical evidence from the crime will still exist, Gaal says in most cases the most important evidence in a sexual abuse case is the victim’s testimony.
With more time to accept this testimony, he says the chances of conviction might be higher.
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network or RAINN, fewer than 10 percent of reported sexual assaults are ever prosecuted.
By A.J. BRAMMER