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Sex-crime survivors plea with lawmakers to get rid of statute of limitations in Washington state

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By KEITH ELDRIDGE, KOMO

OLYMPIA, Wash. (CIRCA via KOMO) — Survivors of sex crimes are pleading with Washington state lawmakers to get rid of the statute of limitations on reporting those assaults. They have tried and failed the past few years. But there is new hope this will be the year the effort finally passes.

"I was sexually abused as a child for many years," sex crime survivor Robin Hopkins testified Tuesday at the House Public Safety Committee.

Legislators have heard these gut-wrenching stories before. Sex-crime survivors tearfully told their stories of attacks, oftentimes at the hands of family members. But they say many don't get prosecuted because the statute of limitations, oftentimes as few as 1 to 10 years, runs out before the survivor has the courage to come forward.

"I was told two days later my case was being dropped because of the statute of limitations. Just hearing those words I felt my heart stop," Hopkins said.

"My preference is to end the statute of limitations on felony sex crimes so monsters like pedophiles have to look over their shoulders the rest of their lives," said bill sponsor Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn. For him this is personal. "My wife's sexual-assault trauma (came) from her stepfather. I call him her step monster."

Dinah Griffey told us how her stepfather started taking showers with her.

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Sex-crime survivors in Washington state are pleading with lawmakers to get rid of the statute of limitations.

"He started coming in and just washing me off, and it just wasn't right. I knew something wasn't right, but I didn't want to say anything," she said.

The statute of limitations had run out. The Griffeys and other survivors have been pushing to change that he past few years. The challenge is each year, it easily passes the House of Representatives only to get stuck in the state Senate.

The chair of the Senate committee handling this issue, Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, says he's all in favor of going after sex offenders, but wants survivors to report as quickly as they can and not have the time be open-ended.

"We want to encourage victims to come forward while they can still get justice, while it's still practical for prosecutors to be able to gather the evidence," Pedersen said.

A compromise is in the works that would eliminate the statute of limitations for those 12 and younger, but only extend the timeline for those 13 and older to 20 years.

"I've talked to sexual (assault) survivors, and they're saying, 'If we can get a win, then let's get a win,' because it's their bill, it's not my bill," Griffey said of the possible compromise.

The House committee members will soon vote on Griffey's bills (HB 1231 & 1234). The Senate compromise version is still waiting for the legislative process to begin.

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