Saturday, August 15, 2009

Should Rape Be Classified As A HATE Crime?

This is something I've been working on for a while and I haven't formed all of my thoughts surrounding what an appropriate punishment for rape should be. So I'm just putting this out there. I will also say I have not experienced sexual assault directly but my life has been impacted by the effects it has had on other women in my life.

There are so many scenarios such as incest and molestation from a relative, then there's this seeming explosion of white female teachers violating their male students that seems to not be taken seriously. There's acquaintance rape and spousal rape. The flagrant abuses by Catholic priests and others with religious authority has now made headlines. Young women trying to enact boundaries in social settings in high school or college where a male will cross the line. Then there's the use of rape as a tactic during wars, coups and other military actions. We also cannot forget such tactics are also used against female service members and not by enemy combatants. There are numerous situations. Most assault survivors know their violators.

I'm not sure about all the legal ramifications involved with this, but the statute of limitations on prosecuting sexual assault should be extended at the very least. It varies from state to state but rape and incest have had a 5-year limit. Murder is still prosecutable decades later - why not various forms of rape? It is an act of violence and hatred so why shouldn't the perpetrator be held accountable? Perhaps it was reading this story of the gang rape of an 8 year old that set me on edge.

Reading these stories about crimes is difficult. As my guest-blogging time at What About Our Daughters closes out I realize what a tough gig it was. I'll be evaluating what I've learned and how it's changed me as a person and a blogger for quite some time. I do know that I much prefer to evaluate our inner workings as humans and race/ethnic identities than discussing specific criminal acts against women. Being exposed to the aftermath of depravity is sickening but it is necessary for us to know what's going on so we can respond to it.

Now there are situations where people have been falsely accused and convicted of crimes they didn't commit from circumstantial evidence. It is so difficult to get a false conviction overturned. We've also heard of cases where prisoners have been executed for capital crimes and DNA evidence proved their innocence. It's a tight rope. On the other hand there are those who are never brought to justice because as many as 60% of the survivors don't come forward to report their assaults. Also states are not processing rape kits and site lack of funding as an excuse. It's a lack of priority if you ask me. With the current stats of 1 in 6 women projected as potential assault victims (and 1 in 33 for men) this should be a priority. I bet if 1 in 6 men would be assaulted law enforcement would step in and legislation would attempt to address it. In cases where DNA evidence exists should there be term limits for prosecution? Also how has the legal precedent of 1st degree rape, 2nd, etc. been established and should they be reevaluated as well?

This article at Oregon Live gives much food for thought
In Oregon, only murder has no statute of limitation, meaning there is no time limit for prosecuting the crime. Rape has a six-year limit, although two years ago state lawmakers extended it to 25 years for prosecution of first-degree sex crimes in which DNA evidence has been collected.

But proponents of this session's bill said the 25-year statute of limitations is not enough to safeguard victims and bring those responsible to justice.

"All it does is reward a rapist who's clever enough to evade capture," said Christine Herrman, director of the Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force.

House Bill 3263 would eliminate the statute of limitations for four sex offenses: first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, first-degree sexual penetration and first-degree sex abuse.

Don Rees, a Multnomah County senior prosecuting attorney, said the bill is limited to the most violent sex crimes involving physical force and the most vulnerable victims.

Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association were careful to express support for Gillmore's victims but said they respectfully opposed the bill.

Andrea Meyer of the ACLU and Gail Meyer of the defense attorneys association said they were concerned that a defendant wouldn't get a fair trial because witnesses die and memories fade. They also expressed concern about the potential for mishandling or contamination of DNA evidence over such a lengthy time.

"You are robbing the defendant of the ability to re-create the event fairly," Gail Meyer said. She added that the statute of limitations was particularly important to be maintained for sex crimes because "innocent, law-abiding people engage in sex" and could be wrongly implicated, which is not so for other crimes.

But the committee didn't seem swayed by the opponents' concerns, and the bill has bipartisan support on the committee. Rep. Judy Stiegler, D-Bend, committee vice-chair, said she was "offended" by their logic, emphasizing that the bill deals with the most egregious of sex crimes, in which physical force or children are involved. Rep. Brent Barton, D-Clackamas, called the opponents' arguments "logically flawed," describing the bill as narrow in scope. Rep. Jefferson Smith, D-Portland, pointed out that it doesn't change a prosecutor's burden of proving a case at trial.

Nationally, 14 states have adopted similar legislation, eliminating the statute of limitations in rape cases in which a DNA profile has been obtained. Thirteen other states have eliminated the statute of limitations on the most serious sex offenses, regardless of whether DNA evidence is collected.

"It certainly a trend that's been going on for the last five years, with the mass use of DNA to solve crimes," said Kristina Korobov, director of the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women. "Certainly the impact of sex assault on a victim and their family can be as devastating as homicide."
I know there are no easy answers and this is a volatile issue for many reasons. We have to ask the tough questions and explore the options though.

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Karen said...

Surprised that there have been no responses, so I will say it:

"Yes, it should be classified as a hate crime."

That being said, of course, there are many factors to be considered when it comes to how to prosecute such cases, but the effects of these crimes last a life time and therefore, there should be no statute of limitation on the ability to prosecute.

It is not a crime of passion...

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Karen: I think this subject matter is a too volatile because it's been lurk mode on this post. Thanks for commenting.

Khadija said...


I haven't fully thought these issues through. Here are my half-formed thoughts about all of this:

I'm not sure how I feel about this, or the notion of there being "hate crimes" statutes in the first place.

I have mixed feelings about the "piling on" effect of enhanced penalties for a defendant based on his adding of racial, ethnic, religious, etc. verbal slurs to an attack. It seems to me that if more of the underlying crimes committed by various types of bigots (such as battery, etc.) were prosecuted to the full extent of available law, there would be no practical need for the existence of additional hate crimes statutes.

I'm also not quite sure how I feel about the statute of limitations for rape. I feel that they should be lengthened (or abolished) regarding sexual assaults involving child victims, and for sexual assaults committed by strangers.

I'm uncomfortable with the idea having no statute of limitations for an adult victim of acquaintance rape (and/or date rape). When an adult who was attacked (as an adult) by a person who is known to them lets YEARS go by before reporting the attack, I start to wonder what is really motivating the self-described victim's allegation.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Karen said...

Valid point and under those circumstances, I would also have a concern not having a statue of limitations in such cases. Often things are shades of gray instead of black & white....

Khadija said: "....I'm uncomfortable with the idea having no statute of limitations for an adult victim of acquaintance rape (and/or date rape). When an adult who was attacked (as an adult) by a person who is known to them lets YEARS go by before reporting the attack, I start to wonder what is really motivating the self-described victim's allegation."

mekare said...

If making rape a hate crime will increase the numbers of convictions then I am all for it.

There should not be a statue of limitations on rape. Victims do not come forward for a number of reasons and that does not mean that the crime did not happen.

Rape cases are hard to prosecute either way it goes. Evidence or not.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Khadija: I'm not certain about all the ramifications either. I am concerned about female military officers who are essentially assaulted on the job while putting their lives on the line. There's no easy solution.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Mekare: Welcome and thanks for replying. As I said I have many questions and mixed feelings about this. I think having some dialog is better than acquiescence.

Anonymous said...

You know it is a hate crime . Because it use as to humiliate and destroy the person sense of self. We have to hand out hard punishment to those who commit the crimes.

There should be no statue of limitation.

@ Khadija
having known someone who did not report her rape , because our culture is into victim blaming. She feared her family would blame her. Which happens all over the world.

PPR_Scribe said...

The FBI has a good sit about hate crimes:

I think I have read somewhere that under many current laws rape is included in the acts that could be classified as a hate crime. So the issue is not so much whether or not rape per se could be a hate crime. The question is whether "gender" should be one of the official categories of classes of people (e.g., race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability status) in hate crime legislation.

In other words, what advocates might want to think about is strengthening inclusions of violence against women *as women* in hate crime/hate speech legislation.