In an effort to empower victims of sexual assault, several jurisdictions have moved to eliminate civil and criminal statutes of limitations. But in the zeal of giving those victims more power, we often forget that statutes of limitations exist for a reason.
Imagine in 2021, you are being sued civilly for sexually assaulting someone 40 years earlier. Would you be able to go back in time to 1981, figure out who you were around at that time and confirm an alibi? Would you be able to recover documents that confirm where you were or what you were doing at the time of the alleged assault?
Now imagine if the person accusing you of that crime that supposedly happened forty years ago also wants to proceed anonymously. While you and your attorneys are allowed to know the name of the plaintiff accusing you, you are prohibited from revealing the name to anyone else, thus limiting your ability to conduct the discovery needed to protect yourself.
Welcome to Kevin Spacey's world.
The allegations against the twice Oscar winning actor are pretty horrific. The lawsuit filed by "C.D." and actor Anthony Rapp accuse Spacey of forcibly sexually assaulting them when they were both 14 years old. Rapp originally publicly accused Spacey in 2017. C.D. and Rapp were only able to sue Spacey after the state of New York in 2019 adopted the Child Victims Act which allows child victims of sexual assault up until age 55 to file a lawsuit. C.D. and Rapp were well into their 50s when they sued Spacey.
A judge recently ruled that C.D. cannot proceed anonymously against Spacey. He will have to agree to be identified publicly or his complaint against Spacey will be dismissed. C.D.'s attorneys have indicated he would rather have the case dismissed than have his identity revealed.
Jurisdictions have been far too quick to discard and significantly extend civil and criminal statutes of limitations for sexual assault victims.
Over time memories fade or become distorted, witnesses die, evidence gets lost. Although the accused doesn't have the burden of proof in either civil or criminal cases, the reality is that when accused of a heinous sexual assault, the accused will be expected to offer some proof of the negative, that he (and it's usually a he) did not do the alleged offense.
I understand why there needs to be a longer statute of limitations for child victims of sexual assault. Those victims need to have some time beyond age 18 to ponder the difficult adult decision of filing a civil lawsuit. But to give those people until age 55, forty years after an incident allegedly happened, is an example of the pendulum swinging too far the other way, sacrificing fundamental fairness in the process.
OOP's Short Takes:
- Our local minor league team is called the "Indians." A spirited debate broke out among my neighbors on the NextDoor app (sort of Facebook for neighborhoods) about whether the team should change its name. After some 30 comments, I decided to speak up and point out that the Indians play in INDIANapolis in the state of INDIANa. If we change the name of the Indians, then logically we need to also rename the Hoosier state as well as its capital.
- So ridiculous. We should be able to make obvious distinctions between derogatory team names like the Redskins and those that are not, names like the Indians and Braves. Plus, the United States has scores of states, counties and cities named after Native American tribes. Are we going to change those as well?
- Last night, Fox TV host Tucker Carlson took on Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Apparently Minority Leader McCarthy's offense is guilty by association - the Minority Leader rents space at GOP pollster Frank Lutz's Penn Quarter Penthouse and Luntz said after January 6th that Trump would not be able to re-enter politics. This is Tucker Carlson's second straight day of attacking McCarthy. There is clearly a movement to make sure McCarthy doesn't become Speaker after the 2022 election.
- Meanwhile, McCarthy is increasing his attacks on Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney. McCarthy supposedly worries that Cheney, chair of the GOP Conference, the #3 position in House leadership, does not have the confidence of the GOP House caucus. Never mind that the caucus earlier this year voted overwhelmingly (in a secret vote) to keep Cheney in her current position. McCarthy apparently wants another vote. Or I should say a certain Florida resident wants another vote.
- In short, McCarthy thinks throwing Cheney under the bus will earn him the loyalty (and blessing) of Donald Trump. How many times do we have to learn the lesson that Donald Trump demands loyalty, but that loyalty is a one way street?