Why Do Rape Cases Have Statutes of Limitations, and What Does That Mean for Victims?

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August 19, 2015

As the technology becomes more common, the supposed need for statutes of limitations lessens. Lynn Hecht Schafran, director of the National Judicial Education Program at the women's legal defense and education fund Legal Momentum, tells Bustle:

"Being able to have tangible evidence that carries forward through the years is a very important step toward making it reasonable to lift these statutes of limitations."

Of course, not every rape victim is given a rape kit, so DNA evidence isn't present in every case.

Schafran doesn't foresee eliminating statutes of limitations in rape cases happening quickly, and if history's taught us anything, it's that these reforms take a long time. Nebraska became the first state to abolish exemptions for marital rape in 1976, but nearly 40 years later, it's still handled differently than other rape cases in several states, with different punishments, shorter reporting periods, or by being charged under a different criminal code. In the same way, getting rid of time limits on sexual assault cases will not happen overnight, so for now, Cosby and others accused of raping women decades ago will remain free.