When women organize, change happens.
TIME’S UP joined New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in announcing the TIME’S UP New York Safety Agenda: a four-part initiative to amend New York law in an effort to prevent sexual harassment and assault from occurring and enable survivors to seek justice. This happened because of women organizing to ensure safe, fair and dignified work for us all.
Catalyzed into action by all the brave survivors who shared their stories, a coalition of women in New York, including actresses, activists, attorneys and business executives, led the four-part TIME’S UP New York Safety Agenda. The safety agenda, which has been included in Governor Cuomo’s 2019 executive budget, includes legislation to ELIMINATE the statute of limitations for second and third-degree rape claims, along with a number of significant workplace protections.
Here’s a breakdown of what that looks like:
This is a HUGE deal. “By eliminating the statute of limitations for second and third-degree rape claims, the state of New York can send a message to survivors everywhere that their stories and experiences will always matter and that there should not be an expiration date on justice,” as super lawyer and TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund co-founder Robbie Kaplan explained.
So let’s look at what all of this means.
What are Statutes of Limitations?
Imagine that a timer starts running immediately after someone commits a crime and when the timer goes off, the perpetrator can no longer be charged for said crime. The window of time that the state has to charge a perpetrator—how long that timer runs for—varies based on the nature of the crime and where it was committed. Statutes of limitations, as RAINN explains well here, are the laws that govern that time frame. Some crimes, like murder, are considered so egregious that they have no statute of limitations.
Where New York and Other States Previously Stood
In 2016, California lawmakers voted to end the statute of limitations for rape. Their action was spurred in part by the outpouring of sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, most of which were no longer prosecutable under the state’s then-10-year statute of limitations. Although the state of New York had eliminated the statute of limitations for first-degree rape in 2006, a five-year statute of limitations remained for second and third-degree rape charges, meaning that after that arbitrary time limit expired, survivors could no longer seek justice under the law. In comparing New York’s second and third degree rape statutes of limitation to other states, TIME’S UP found that only two other states had such short statutes of limitation for rape.
According to Jennifer Mondino, Senior Counsel for the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund and the Legal Network for Gender Equity, removing statutes of limitation for rape “just makes it so much easier for a wide range of survivors to ultimately access justice.”
The map below shows what rape statutes of limitation law currently looks like across the country:
Where We Are Now
Governor Cuomo has pledged to eliminate the statutes of limitation for second and third-degree rape charges in New York. The State Legislature still needs to vote to amend the criminal code in order to make it official, but the Governor’s pledge is a huge first step. One thing to note: Like California, New York’s forthcoming law will not be retroactive, meaning the statute of limitations will still apply to any crimes committed before the new law goes into effect.