For far too long rapists got away with their crimes in New York State due to an extremely short statute of limitations, according to Queens Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas. But things are about to change.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law Wednesday legislation that the Astoria-based lawmaker sponsored which extends the statute of limitations to 20 years for second degree rape and to ten years for third degree rape up from 5 years under prior law, giving survivors more time to bring criminal charges or civil claims against their attackers.
“There has been an ongoing and pervasive culture of sexual harassment and abuse in our society, and it is made word by the fact that victims of second and third degree rape only had five years to bring a legal claim against their attacker,” Cuomo said.”Five years is an insult to these survivors and today we’re providing them more time to come to terms with the trauma they experienced and to seek justice. This new law recognizes the injustice that has gone on for far too long and honors all women who have suffered this pain and all the advocates who had the courage to come forward and tell their story so that other women may be spared the pain.”
The statute of limitations in the first degree was eliminated in the legislation. The bill was sponsored by Simotas while state Senator Alessandra Biaggi carried it in the upper chamber.
“Our culture teaches people not to be raped instead of teaching people not to rape. By updating our laws, we are sending a strong message that survivors matter, their stories matter and New York will not deny anyone accessible means to justice,” Simotas said. “I am proud that we are finally providing survivors an adequate window of time to process their trauma.”
As a survivor of sexual abuse, Biaggi explained, it can take decades for a person to be comfortable enough to come forward and to pursue justice against their attacker.
“By extending the statute of limitations for certain offenses of rape, sexual criminal acts, and incest, New York is adopting procedures that allow survivors of sexual violence to report on their own terms,” she said.
Neither Simotas or Biaggi were at the signing ceremony. Cuomo, instead, had been surrounded by celebrity members of the advocacy groups Time’s Up and NOW-NYC.
“The signing of this bill is a watershed moment, a real advance in the battle against rape culture not only in New york but across the country,” actress Mira Sorvino said. “Because of it more survivors can now have their rightful day in court and a chance for justice.”
There is no statute of limitations for first-degree rape in New York meaning survivors can seek justice in those cases at anytime no matter when the attack occurred.