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April 1, 2013

Brownback signs bill eliminating statute of limitations in rape cases

The new law also gives victims of child sexual abuse more time to report the crime. “I think this is a very important message and signal to put out there,” governor says.

As advocates, lawmakers and a rape survivor applauded, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday signed into law a bill that eliminates the statute of limitations on rape and aggravated sodomy.

House Bill 2252 also allows victims of other violent sexual crimes 10 years after turning age 18 to report a crime, a move that intends to help a person victimized by a family member and is afraid to report the assault until he or she can safely leave home.

About 90 percent of child sex crimes involve family members or other trusted adults.

“That makes it even more difficult. When a child leaves the house at, say age 18, in many ways that’s when the clock starts running on the child’s ability to weigh the consequence of disclosing or to allow the memory to come forward to be disclosed,” said Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt. “They’re very difficult crimes. This is a big step.”

Kansas joins about 20 other states that have no time limit for the prosecution of rape.

“I think this is a very important message and signal to put out there,” Brownback said.

Several survivors of rape and assault testified earlier this year that they couldn’t get justice despite taped confessions and other evidence because the statute of limitations had expired.

Mel Townsend, a rape survivor who testified about how a serial rapist broke into her home in Lawrence and assaulted her, said she was elated about the new law. She said it will help other survivors.

“It will give them a little bit of hope,” she said.

Only three other crimes in Kansas have no statute of limitations — murder and two terrorism-related charges, which were approved after the Sept. 11 attacks.

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