1. The statute of limitations shouldn’t protect rapists.
The unconfirmed guilt of Cosby aside, one of the positives of this blemish on American cultural history has been the dialogue ignited regarding the problematic nature of the statute of limitations in the United States.
The statute of limitations is an old legal concept which exists to help restrict judicial proceedings to a reasonable time frame.
The time frame may vary from state to state. In general, the maximum number of years is pretty minimal — 10 years in some states. This kind of legislation takes after a 1600s Britain version, when the discourse regarding rape and sexual assault probably didn’t come close to resembling today’s.
What we do have today is a limitation of the limitations when it comes to heinous crimes. First degree murder is usually the sole exception to the statute of limitations. The alleged rape of 47 women apparently does not qualify as heinous even though there is no limitation on how long the effects from sexual violence may last.
The statute of limitations mostly falls short in the way it disregards the role time plays in the aftermath of sexual violence. It isn’t uncommon for years to pass before a survivor of sexual violence realizes they have been raped — you can thank poor sex education for that — or decides to come forward and confront the rapist — you can thank slut-shaming and rape culture for that.
A statute of limitations that does not qualify sexual crimes as heinous means many survivors don’t even get a fighting chance at bringing rapists to justice, permitting individuals responsible for abhorrent acts to continue their behaviors without limitation.
2. Proving sexual violence in a court of law is difficult.
Having an innocent-until-proven-guilty model of justice is a cornerstone of American freedom. Even in the case of sexual violence, this cannot be ignored.
However, most sexually violent crimes are perpetrated behind closed doors in an intimate setting. Rarely is there documentation, and it more or less becomes one person’s word against another, which isn’t sufficient for a conviction.
It is a complex insufficiency of our legal system. Perhaps a union of legal and humanitarian thinking and lobbyist pressure could change how sexual misconduct is handled in court to help the cases which aren’t inhibited by the statute of limitations.
3. The response from the social court is reassuring, but it still is not enough and is too slow.
While a court of law cannot touch Cosby given the current circumstances, the public reaction has been swift and appropriately severe.
Cosby’s work is being pulled from the air left and right, while plans for future works — including a Netflix stand-up special — are dissolving into oblivion.
There is a petition calling for Cosby’s star to be pulled from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and another demanding he be stripped of his Presidential Medal of Freedom, the most esteemed civilian honor.
It is obviously positive to see apologists of Cosby’s declared behavior are dwindling, but it is still offensive how much outcry arrived only upon the information released regarding his 2005 Quaalude admission. The word of 47 women should have been more than sufficient.
4. Sexual misconduct is not perpetrated exclusively by celebrities.
A final note is a reminder about the media treatment of Cosby and the atrocities he is said to have committed.
The media coverage is upholding an idea serial rape of this scale is newsworthy when the person is noteworthy. It makes sexual violence seem like it is an isolated occurrence perpetrated by men of power and influence.
News outlets cannot report nationally about every rape and sexual assault because it is happening all the time, and not just from quirky, sweater-clad father figures. Rapists are teachers, coaches, fathers, sons and brothers. They are men and women. There are serial rapists and rapists who do not realize they rape.
The 47 accounts against Cosby may and should seem outrageous and horrifying. Given the ease with which a person can get away with rape in our country, however, we cannot let this seem like an anomaly.