One of the more troubling aspects of rape allegations (and possible prosecutions) is that in many areas of the world, there is not statute of limitations on rape allegations. Effectively, this results in the too-often seen scenario whereby a woman alleges a famous male figure raped her decades ago but only now does she wish to have the matter prosecuted (and have you noticed that it is always a well-known man who cops the “he raped me thirty years ago” allegations?) In recent times, Australians Robert Hughes and Rolf Harris have been convicted on the “testimonies” of women regarding events that supposedly happened decades ago. Yet, in both cases, the women involved have waited until now to bring their allegations to light. The question that has to be asked is why? If the incident had any validity, surely the allegations would have been raised at the time to allow for a fair and impartial investigation while relevant parties memories of the alleged events were fresh and any evidence (DNA or otherwise) could be examined. As it is now, when a woman lodges a claim that so and so raped her twenty or thirty years ago, there is almost no biological evidence (how convenient) and the whole event hinges on people’s recollection of what may or may not have happened decades in the past. Eyewitness testimony has been shown to be notoriously unreliable even when events are recent; reliability is further eroded when trying to describe events that allegedly happened half a lifetime ago. To the point, if I allege that someone broke into my house or beat me up thirty years ago, no prosecutor in the land is going to take that one up because it can’t be proven or disproven either way. Even in the above scenario, any sane prosecutor would ask the obvious question we have already covered and that is why did I not lodge the allegations at the time and that is more than fair enough. Yet, this situation is allowed to occur in allegations of rape and frequently does. In any investigation of an alleged event decades past, pretty much the only “evidence” tendered either way is hearsay and hearsay and hearsay can not be considered to be proof by anyone interested in having justice served. If anything, one would think it would be impossible to be convicted purely on hearsay and for pretty much any crime apart from rape, it is impossible to convicted of hearsay. Yet – as it stands – Robert Hughes and Rolf Harris were both convicted purely on hearsay regarding alleged rapes that happened longer in the past than many legal adults have been alive. I have no doubt that both Hughes and Harris were creepy opportunists but thee is a long stretch between that and being a rapist. Yet, as is stands, because some females many years ago found both Harris and Hughes distasteful (which is pretty much all they were able to prove and being “distasteful” is not in itself a crime) both men have been convicted of rape and sentenced to lengthy spells of imprisonment. In Harris case, it is likely he will die in prison given his advanced age.
So why do women insist on waiting so long to raised allegations of rape. This article from COTWA has a good theory, specifically in regards to the current Bill Crosby allegations…….
“The longer an accuser waits to lodge a complaint, the more difficult it is to fairly defend against it.”
Which, by the way, is the whole reason we have statutes of limitations. One of the basic tenets of law is that it is better to free a guilty person than it is to imprison an innocent one; from that comes the principle of innocent until proven guilty. By pushing out the statute of limitations on rape, women know that it is much harder for any man they accuse of rape to get a fair trial. To make matters worse, the current anti-male sentiment of women-never-lie-about-being-raped (even though there is insurmountable evidence that they do, and often at that) creates a situation whereby a man accused of rape is effectively guilty unless he can prove himself innocent. Case in point: the accusers of Robert Hughes and Rolf Harris did not prove that the respective gentlemen raped them; Hughes and Harris were unable (as a function of their accusers delaying their allegations) to prove they didn’t rape the said women. I have a sad feeling the same fate will befall Bill Crosby for the same reason.
At present, it seems to be only relatively famous men that get targeted by this opportunistic practice by women – and likely because, once the get a conviction for an unprovable allegation of rape, women know they can sue the famous man’s estate for all he is worth. How long will it be before this practice filters down to the common man? Whilst I am not famous by any means and my wealth would be much less than any celebrity, I am nonetheless well-off. What is stopping some woman twenty years down the track alleging I raped her at such and such a time and date and whatever location. How the fuck am I going to defend myself against that? I can’t remember what I did yesterday most of the time and I am supposed to recollect what I am accused of doing at a specific time/date/location twenty or thirty years ago? Be fucking serious.
There is the other issue of damage to an accused man’s reputation by the mere allegation of rape even if charges are never laid. Bill Cosby has had numerous performance dates cancelled even though (as best I know) he is yet to be charged with anything in relation to his current predicament. Should this be permissible? Either way, restricting the timeframe in which women could lodge allegations of rape would do a lot to create a fairer system for the accused (and a fair investigation/trial is a legal right) whilst giving greater credibility to women lodging rape accusations in the first place.
The statute of limitations for rape allegations should most definitely NOT be raised. If anything, it should be severely limited in line with limitations for all crimes.