Reform necessary for Okla. sexual assault laws

20 February 2017
Nathan Hinkle, Student Writer

A strict statute of limitations and limited accessibility to rape kits prove that reform to sexual assault laws is critical.

Danielle Tudor, an advocate for rape victims, is attempting to pass a series of new bills in Oklahoma governing issues involving rape. These issues include the statue of limitations for rape, adding rape kits as evidence and allowing rape victims to look at outcomes concerning kits. According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a rape kit is “a container that includes a checklist, materials and instructions, along with envelopes and containers to package any specimens collected during the exam.” Through these bills, Tudor, with the help of the creator of these bills, Senator Kay Floyd, help provide more power to potential rape victims.

These bills are coming on the heels of serious problems facing Oklahoma. According to a quote from the Oklahoma Health Department, “the rate of rape and attempted rape has been 35 to 45 percent higher than the national average over the past decade. Data from state investigators show that the number of reported rapes have increased each year since 2011.”

Another big issue involving the prosecution of rape in Oklahoma is the statute of limitations. People must report sexual violence within 12 years and charges may be filed within 3 years of a DNA match. However, this statute of limitations is not a national law. In states such as Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware and 12 others, there is no statute of limitations on reporting rape or other forms of sexual assault. It is a varied set of demands from state to state, with some providing extra time if there is DNA evidence to back the claim up. In regards to these differing statute of limitations laws, Tudor stated “I don’t believe justice by any rape survivor should be dictated by your ZIP code.” She concluded her statement by saying “Depending on where you’re raped depends on what rights you have.” This statute of limitations change would be potentially necessary for many older rape cases, as Tudor and Senator Floyd hope to enact an audit of all the rape kits currently in Oklahoma. Through this audit, they both hope that it would be possible to start solving unsolved rape cases.

Another issue at the forefront of these sexual assault bills is the current practice that police are not required to add rape kits to the database of other evidence. Tudor argues that rape kits should be catalogued because they “help police investigate connections between sexual assault reports.” Police can use rape kits as useful tools to help solve future cold cases.

Tudor also intends to pass a bill that allows the victims of sexual assault the ability to look at the police report on their specific case and also the ability to have a victim’s advocate in any stage of the process.

These bills all have their own merits. Through these bills, Tudor and supporters hope that justice can be given to rape victims who have been shut out. While statutes of limitations are important because they protect defendants from extremely lengthy cases that could ruin their reputation, cases involving sexual assault are incredibly important but hard to solve. First degree murder currently has no statute of limitations because it is really important that cases involving murder charges be solved. Sexual assault and rape should have a similar set of rules behind them. While rape does not involve the death of an individual, it is still an extremely terrible event and should be properly treated as a crime.

While the law concerning the statute of limitations involving rape is more volatile, the other two potential bills are less loaded ideas. The audit of rape kits will help police solve both old and new crimes. Victims of sexual assault should be allowed to view the work being done on their cases because assault was a major terrible event in their lives. While the hunt for justice can easily turn into vengeance, victims should have the right to view their case and the processes surrounding it.