An Ohio state senator is sponsoring a bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual abuse or assault cases.
Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-District 33) held a press conference Wednesday at the Ohio Statehouse to announce the legislation.
He was joined by victims’ rights attorney Gloria Allred and Mike DiSabato, a former Ohio State wrestler, who is among those accusing the late Ohio State team doctor Richard Strauss of sexual abuse.
“The most heinous, vile sexual abuse scandal in the history of higher education in sport,” DiSabato said, speaking Wednesday at the press conference.
Schiavoni said the legislation aims to eliminate the statute of limitations or time period in which a survivor must report the offense, in both criminal and civil cases.
“There’s no statute of limitations when it comes to murder and there shouldn’t be a statute of limitations when it comes to rape,” Schiavoni said.
Many people don’t know what it’s like to be victimized, Schiavoni said.
“But when you hear it, it’s gut-wrenching. I don’t care if it happened last year or 50 years ago,” he added.
Right now in Ohio, the statute of limitations is 25 years for criminal cases and shorter for civil cases.
“It took me 20 years to share and the moment that I shared was the moment that I lost my family,” said Elizabeth Joy, a licensed social worker who said she was sexually abused by a family member when she was a child.
Joy said she was also raped by a teacher in high school. She reported that rape, she said, and the teacher was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
As for her sexual abuse at the hands of a relative, Joy said she hasn’t reported it. But she said she feels she and other survivors should have the right to report abuse when they feel ready, not during an arbitrary time period.
“And maybe there won’t be a prosecution, but when you prevent me from at least being able to tell my story and attempt to get justice, then again you’re just violating me all over again,” Joy said.
The statute of limitations varies by state.
Gloria Allred said she’s been involved in supporting legislation in other states to eliminate it so that victims can come forward when they’re ready.
“Who benefits from that? It’s not the victim. It’s the predator,” Allred said.
She noted that she believes Ohio could take the lead on eliminating the statute of limitations for both criminal and civil cases.
Schiavoni said that while there isn’t much time left to pass the bill this year, he and other co-sponsors plan to continue to fight to change the law in the future.