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Former attorneys general: End time limits on rape charges

June 3, 2019
Ohio Attorney General David Yost, center, discusses his call to lawmakers to remove the statute of limitations for the crime of rape in Ohio, at a news conference attended by former attorneys general Nancy Rogers, left, and Betty Montgomery, right, on Monday, June 3, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio lawmakers should remove time limits for charging suspects with rape, state Attorney General David Yost said Monday as he and former attorneys general joined a call to eliminate such statutes of limitations in the state.

Gov. Mike DeWine made a similar request last month in light of the sex abuse scandal at Ohio State University. The late Richard Strauss, a former team doctor, is accused of abusing more than 170 male students for two decades from the late 1970s into the 1990s.

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 Democratic Attorney General 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.

The GOP-controlled Senate will consider any proposal brought forward, spokesman John Fortney said. He noted the chamber previously supported speeding up the testing of backlogged rape kits.

The House, also controlled by Republicans, “will keep their comments under consideration as we continue reviewing this issue,” spokeswoman Gail Crawley said.

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