SACRAMENTO -- California is one step closer to eliminating its existing ten year statute of limitations for prosecuting rape cases.
Senate bill SB 813 passed unanimously on the assembly floor Thursday. The bill would make it legal for victims and survivors of felony sexual offenses to have their alleged attackers prosecuted at any time after the crime occurred. Rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation and sexual penetration all fall into this category.
"The ten years is an arbitrary number, there is no logic behind it," Senator Connie Leyva said.
Leyva authored SB 813 after recently learning that California had a statute of limitations for rape cases.
"There is no statute of limitations on murder, and people are murdered by accident everyday. No one is ever raped on accident," Levya said.
Jule Bornhoeft with WEAVE, Sacramento County's only domestic abuse and sexual assault crisis center said she agrees.
"To act as if it's less than any other violent crime is not okay," Bornhoeft said.
Bornhoeft told FOX40 14,000 people per year call WEAVE asking for help. She said often times victims of sexual assault are too ashamed or afraid to come forward to seek counseling, let alone to report the crime to authorities.
Rape survivor Sabrina Word told FOX40 the bill would give victims more options when it came to healing and making a decision about whether or not to prosecute their attacker.
"Truly, once someone's been effected, it effects them for the rest of their life, whether we acknowledge that or not," Word said.
Word said she was raped nine years ago, and still re-lives the trauma. She said she went missing after a night out with close friends, only to wake up the following morning alone in a parking lot.
"I was found naked from the waist down and my face had been so badly beaten I needed to have reconstructive surgery on my face," Word said.
Word stated she was taken to a hospital immediately and greeted by authorities who informed her about how to report the rape. She said a suspect went to trial for the case, and even though some DNA evidence was presented, the outcome was a hung jury on one charge and a not guilty verdict on another. She is now a sexual assault victim advocate.
"What I've learned from being a sexual assault victim and from working with victims is that it's important to empower these women. Hopefully this empowers them when they know that even if it's fifteen years later they can still move forward with a case," Word said.
Senator Leyva said SB 813 will head back to the Senate floor for concurrence and it could make it to the Governor's desk within a week or so.
If SB 813 becomes law, it will go into effect January 1, 2017 and will only apply to rape cases that occur on or after January 1, 2017.