There wasn’t a viewer alive, besides those who were allegedly assaulted, who wasn’t shocked when the allegations against “America’s Favorite TV Dad” surfaced. Women from all stages of his life and career came forward to tell the same lurid details about what Cosby had done to them. The biggest problem is that even though they had the courage to come forward and may have tarnished his reputation slightly, many will not have their day in court to accuse their assailant. Because of the statute of limitations laws regarding sexual abuse crimes and allegations, they may never get justice.
States across the union are being challenged by alleged victims petitioning lawmakers to extend the statute of limitations for sexual crimes. Colorado, Nevada, and California are three such states where a movement has begun to eliminate a statute of limitations for rape altogether. What those challenging the various states all have in common is that they were victims of Cosby who have been disallowed to have their petitions heard due to an arbitrary time limit.
By the time the women came forward in each case, the time allowed for prosecution had passed. Being intimidated by age and Cosby’s fame, it took uniting together to have the courage to face their perpetrator with a proper sexual harassment lawyer. But each was told that it was too late. None of the women who are fighting the time limits will profit in any way by changes being made because of the grandfather clause. Their aim is not to right their own wrong, but to ensure that no other young impressionable woman will be denied the right to bring charges due to the passage of time.
The women in each case insist that although there is a deadline by which they are allowed to accuse their assailant, there is no time limit on what the act did to them or their lives. They will have to live with what happened to them for a lifetime. There is no magic timeline for it to be erased from their memories.
Cosby’s case has spurred debate across the U.S. Many are upset that someone can have so many allegations against them, so much mounting evidence, and so many women’s lives who have been ruined, yet the victims have no recourse due to a calendar date. Seemingly Cosby, unless falling on other charges, will never be held accountable for what he did to ruin the lives of so many that he touched.
At question is not just the statute of limitations, but definitions and needed proof to prosecute those who have been accused of sexual assault. Not only are legislators discussing whether there is a time limit to make charges, but also if there need to be other standards, like consent and physical force proof. With all of these seeming arbitrary and not standardized, many feel that women’s rights are being denied and that there is a bias toward those who come forward with courage to face their assaulters through legalities that don’t make sense.
The problem that legislatures are having is that although the evidence in the Cosby case appears to be credible with many accusers telling the same tale, memories begin to fade after time. This means there is no way to know for sure if the memories are real or clouded by emotions and the passing of time.
Sexual assault is typically an act that has no witnesses and is left to the tale told by the two parties involved. It is difficult to give one an upper hand and to still preserve the right that a person is innocent until proven guilty. It is hard enough to decipher guilt when the actions are fresh in the minds of those involved, but especially difficult when the events are jaded and blurry due to situations and conditions that happened well after the event.
If legislatures do away with time limits, the fear is that there will be very little evidence remaining to protect someone. If they are prosecuted, even if found not guilty, it could ruin their lives. Sexual assault cases are tough enough when there is concrete evidence, witnesses, or physical signs; they are even more so when it is a “he said, she said” situation, as most cases are.
Likely to be debated around the nation, sexual assault is a very emotionally tragic crime that stays with victims long after the act. But how long should they have to tell their tale, and how can you preserve “innocent until proven guilty” if time passes and the situation allowed to settle for years or decades or lifetimes?