Sexual assault survivors push to eliminate statute of limitations

Wednesday marked a day of emotional testimony at the Minnesota State Capitol as several sexual assault survivors shared their traumatic stories.

Survivors banded together in an effort to pass a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual violence.

“Eliminating the statute of limitations for perpetrators will hold repeat offenders accountable and it will remind sexual predators there are consequences for their deviance,” said survivor De’Vonna Pittman.

Pittman said she was first sexually assaulted when she was in preschool, at just five years old. 

At 10 years old, Laura Stearns was raped by her brother's friend. Then it happened again.

“The second time that I was sexually assaulted, I was 15, by Jason McLean, who was an adult company actor at the Children’s Theatre Company. This time, I was silenced by Mr. McLean as well as the culture that I was embedded in at the Children’s Theatre,” Stearns said.

This is the second year a group of women who are both survivors and advocates have pushed to remove the statute of limitations for sexual crimes--only now did they get a hearing.

"We've been working on this for two years, Sarah and I, and it's because we want a path forward for survivors. We've been silenced by the system already, and this allows perpetrators to have more power to say, ‘as long as I can make it past nine years the victim cannot speak,’" said Asma Mohammed Nizami with Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment.

There are many variations to Minnesota law when it comes to seeking charges for rape and sexual assault; the time limit depends on what year the crime occurred, if it was first reported, how old the victim was and if there is DNA evidence.

The bill would allow victims to report when they're ready, not when the law says they need to be.

“We need as much time to heal, to be ready to disclose horrific details and to literally one day face our perpetrators,” Pittman said.

The bill has bipartisan support, and a similar one is working its way through the Senate. A motion was granted to possibly include it in the Public Safety Omnibus bill.