[PHOTO: Cosby Survivors Lili Bernard and Victoria Valentino]
Will you join us by signing this petition compelling lawmakers in California to abolish statute of limitations (SOL) on rape and sexual assault prosecution, for the benefit of recent and future victims?
In the early 1990s, Bill Cosby mentored me as I prepared for my guest-starring role on The Cosby Show. After he had won my complete trust and adoration, he drugged me and raped me. When I told him that I would report him to the police, he threatened serious consequences to my life. In 1992, during our last contact, he said to me, “As far as I’m concerned, Bernard, you’re dead. Do you hear me? You’re dead, Bernard. You don’t exist.” I interpreted that as a death threat and feared for my life.
In the spring of 2015, empowered by dozens of brave women who publicly disclosed the abuse they suffered at the hands of Bill Cosby, I finally shed the fear and filed a police report against him in the state of New Jersey, in which an assault occurred. However, despite the evidence I saved and the witnesses willing to testify on my behalf, Cosby could not be considered for prosecution because the assault occurred a few months outside of the statute of limitations.
This was truly heart-breaking to me. I’m now fighting to help abolish the statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault in the state of California where I’ve lived since the early 1990s. I’ve been organizing with a group of Los Angeles area anti-rape activists, including Cosby Survivor, Victoria Valentino, who has become like a sister to me. Victoria has said that “rape is a murder of the spirit.” There are no statute of limitations for murder. Rape is a life-threatening crime that often results in STDs such as AIDS, unwanted pregnancy, PTSD, addiction, depression and suicide. It can take many years for rape victims to disclose due to these consequences and to fear of retaliation, stigma, and victim blaming. Victims should be able to file a police report when they feel safe and strong enough to do so. Time limits on prosecution deny sexual assault survivors justice. That has to change.
My home state of California is on the verge of making this happen. Please sign this petition calling for the abolition of the statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault prosecution!
Right now is a critical time to get this done. State Senator Connie Leyva recently introduced the Justice for Survivors Act (SB 813) to overturn the 10-year statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault in California. SB 813 does not change the burden of proof, but it does allow survivors with evidence and witnesses to receive justice years after a sexual assault has occurred. The bill will be voted upon this spring, and it is vital that we let our elected leaders know that abolishing the time limit on rape and sexual assault prosecution is a pressing priority.
There is no shortage of precedents for this kind of state law. I’m hopeful that abolishing the time limit on prosecuting rape and sexual assault in California will encourage every state across the nation to do the same. Many states have already abolished their time limit on prosecuting rape and sexual assault, including Alabama, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia. It is high time that the most progressive state in the union and the rest of the nation get on the right side of history with this issue.
Your signature for this bill is a signature to provide hope for recent and future victims of rape and sexual assault. Please join us in helping to eliminate the time limit for prosecuting rape and sexual assault in California, because justice knows no time limit.