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NYCLU Comment on Statute of Limitations Legislation

NEW YORK – The legislature passed legislation to expand the statute of limitations for some cases of sexual violence. The following statement is attributable to the New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman:

“People who have faced sexual violence must be able to access justice through safe and supportive legal mechanisms. Survivors often delay reporting, and for good reason: some are dealing with significant trauma, fear, stigma, and retaliation; experience non-action by the police; and in some instances, survivors may not even realize their experience as assault until years down the line. We need to support survivors while maintaining longstanding legal safeguards.

“Statutes of limitations exist for an important reason: as time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult for the accused to prepare a meaningful defense while evidence gets stale, witnesses disappear, and records become lost. They are a critical cornerstone of our legal system and help ensure that people accused of a crime have a fair opportunity to defend themselves.

“We must strike the right balance between ensuring justice for survivors and fairness for all within a flawed criminal justice system. Excessively long statutes of limitations reinforce a system of punishment and imprisonment. We need to shift both the culture of sexual violence and the knee-jerk lock-’em-up response to it – and that starts with preventive policies such as training for law enforcement to handle sexual assault cases appropriately and comprehensive sex education in schools that equip young people with a deep understanding of consent, bodily autonomy, and healthy relationships. We must learn from our past mistakes and realize that we cannot incarcerate our way out of this problem.”

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