Extension in Rape Statute of Limitations Helps 'Kim' Cope
Feb. 24, 1996
BOSTON (AP) _ She said she was 30 years old when she was raped, forced to strip and submit to a man who shoved a pillow in her face after she let him into her home.
It wasn't until 1991 _ 11 years later _ that ``Kim'' had the strength to seek prosecution of the man on rape charges. By then, it was too late _ the statute of limitations had expired.
On Friday, Kim let out a sigh of relief after the governor signed a bill extending the statute of limitations from 10 to 15 years. Although the bill won't help her, Kim is sure it will help others who come to the same reckoning.
``The experience of this bill has provided a small measure of closure,'' the 45-year-old school teacher said shyly at a news conference. ``I feel I've begun to take back the night.''
More than a dozen states have abolished a statute of limitations for rape offenders.
The bill signed by Gov. William F. Weld also increased the statute of limitations, the period in which a person can be prosecuted for a crime, for assault with intent to commit rape, assault of a child with intent to commit rape, conspiracy to commit those crimes, and being an accessory to them.
Weld said the extension would allow women more time to compose themselves before reporting their attack.
Kim, who provided only her pseudonym, silenced the room as she recounted the attack by a former neighbor in 1980. He knocked at the door of her home in suburban Boston. She let him in and the next thing she knew, he was forcing her to strip.
``He put a pillow in my face to stop my screaming and almost smothered me. Before he left he made me bathe; I assume it was to wash away evidence of the crime,'' she said.
Afterward, Kim went to the hospital and received counseling. She talked about seeking charges against the man, but she was advised not to.
``I was 30 and an adult,'' she remembered. ``I knew the perpetrator and I let him in. The courts would place the blame on me, the victim, and I was terrified, terrified of retribution by my rapist.''
Kim said all that changed in 1991, as she watched Anita Hill testify that she had been sexually harassed by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. She went to a prosecutor and asked him to file charges. He told her it was too late.
``I was furious. The legal system is supposed to be there for you and they were not for me. I wanted to share the nightmare that I had been holding in for 11 years and had been taught by society to be silent about. This guy deserves to be punished for what he did to me, and only due to the expiration of the time limit could he simply walk away,'' she said.
In 1992 and 1993, bills that would eliminate the statute of limitations died in committee.
``Every time that I was testifying, writing a letter or making a phone call, I was making a statement to my perpetrator about what he did to me,'' she said. ``For me, it was a powerful and major step.''
In 1994, Kim proposed doubling the statute to 20 years. The House and Senate finally passed an amended version of the bill by unanimous votes this month.