Advocates Urge End to CT's Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault Crimes; Legislation Awaits Action

The statistics were stark and unsettling, featured in an informational display in the corridor connecting the State Capitol and the Legislative Office Building, in the midst of Sexual Assault Awareness Month:

  • 77% of victims in Connecticut know their perpetrators
  • In 2016, the estimated cost of sexual violence in Connecticut was $5,762,944.30, including lost wages and medical costs based on emergency department visits.
  • Connecticut students who experienced sexual violence were 3 times more likely to miss school because they felt unsafe
  • 8% of CT students in grades 9-12 reported being forced to have sexual intercourse.
  • 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetimes.

Less prominent, but described as equally significant, was advocacy information that explained Connecticut has the third shortest statute of limitation in the country in cases of sexual assault, and the shortest in New England – five years.

The Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence is calling for that to change, but it is unclear if a legislative proposal (House Bill 5246) to eliminate the criminal statute of limitations will be approved in the final three weeks of the state legislative session. Another proposal would extend the period to ten years (Senate Bill 238), an improvement over the current 5-year window, but still shorter than it should be, advocates say.

The "elimination" bill was approved by the legislature's Judiciary Committee, 26-14, earlier this month.

The organization points out that Connecticut’s short reporting window does not account for new crimes that involve online victimization.  And it does not recognize the multiple barriers to reporting immediately after an assault, or that five years has not always been enough time to investigate and bring a case against a perpetrator, “allowing some likely offenders to go free.”

Stating that “justice should not have an expiration date,” the organization points out that eight states have no statute of limitations for felony sexual assault crimes, and 28 states have a statute of limitations of 21 years or more.  Only 10 states, including Connecticut, have a statute of limitation of 10 years or less.

According to the National Institutes of Health, sexual violence is the leading cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in women.  Testifying in support of the bill last month, Madeline Granato of the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) said a survivor of sexual assault may face multiple barriers that prevent timely reporting, and "the elimination of the statute of limitations will remove at least one barrier:  time."

The bill has been opposed by the State Office of Chief Public Defender, which told legislators in March that "Without any finite period of time within which a prosecution can be brought, it may be impossible for an innocent person to fairly defend himself, 10, 20 or more years beyond the date of the offense."

The Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence partnered with the Connecticut Department of Public Health in showcasing materials and information to help the public identify sexual violence, offer support to survivors, and prevent sexual violence.  Throughout the month of April, The Alliance its member programs, are raising awareness about sexual violence through hosting events across the state.

Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence is a statewide coalition of individual sexual assault crisis programs. The Alliance works to end sexual violence through victim assistance, community education, and public policy advocacy.