Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is calling on state lawmakers to lift the statute of limitations on rape. Five former Ohio attorneys general, both Democrats and Republicans, are joining Yost in advocating for this change.
Yost says there shouldn’t be a set time frame for when rape charges can be filed.
As of now the statute of limitations for rape is 25 years. As Yost explains, rape is a deeply personal invasion, and can take a victim many years to speak out.
“Make no mistake about it, the damage that is done in the commission of this crime for many people leaves them unable to even face it, much less talk with anyone about it, ” Yost said.
Ending the statute of limitations for rape has garnered more support, including from Gov. Mike DeWine, since a report from the Ohio State University found former sports doctor Richard Strauss sexually assaulted more than 170 student athletes.
Yost and other attorneys general said the Strauss scandal was one impetus for the push, as is the national #MeToo movement, and changes in society's understanding of the impact of rape.
Rape should be treated like murder, which has no limits on when charges can be brought, Yost and five former attorneys general said in a May 31 letter to House Speaker Larry Householder and Senate President Larry Obhof.
"The profound invasion of the person makes rape like no other crime — a violation of the body, the mind and soul," the letter said. "We now know that the trauma associated with a rape has a lifetime impact on a survivor, making it a different sort of offense than theft or dealing drugs or extortion," the letter said.
Yost was joined at a news conference by former Republican Attorney General Betty Montgomery and former Democrat Nancy Rogers. Jim Petro, a Republican, and Democrats Lee Fisher and Richard Cordray also signed the letter.
Yost dismissed arguments that eliminating time limits for rape charges could lead to unjust convictions because of a lack of surviving witnesses or evidence. It's still up to the prosecution to prove their case, and prosecutors can't bring convictions if they don't meet the burden of proof, the letter said.
Rogers said the public is beginning to understand how frequently rapists commit their crimes, as well as the suffering that victims continue to experience decades after the crime.
It wasn't that long ago that victims found it shameful to admit that they had been raped, said Montgomery. As a county prosecutor, she was often asked if she herself would ever report a rape.
"I had to be honest and say, 'I'd have to think about it.' Because it would affect my future going forward, how people saw me," Montgomery said.
Forensic science has also advanced to the point that authorities can be far more sure now that they have the right perpetrator, she said.
Messages were left with the offices of Householder and Obhof seeking comment about the letter.