Twenty years could go by with no answers, but when that answer does come, a survivor is still able to get the justice they deserve.
A major barrier to bring justice to rape survivors can be the time restrictions in place for when they are allowed to file charges. But Idaho is not a state that requires such statutes of limitations, meaning there is no deadline to initiate legal proceedings if someone is sexually assaulted.
Idaho is among 15 other states with no statute of limitations on rape or sexual assault.
A survivor’s clock to begin legal action would be ticking in a state that has a statute on rape to begin legal action, said Cpl. Jason Jones of the Nampa Police Department.
“But, you can’t really set up someone else’s clock for them,” he said.
In Idaho, if a victim or survivor’s DNA was tested years after the assault, authorities would still have an opportunity to investigate and prosecute.
Kristie Thiel, a victim-witness coordinator for Nampa police, recalled a time when a survivor was believed to be drugged one night and woke up without her clothes on.
“She ends up being pregnant,” Thiel said. “So if at any point in time we can say we have a suspect through DNA or anything else, we’d be able to charge that.”
Thiel said these things take time, and filing charges or moving forward with the legal system needs to be on the survivor’s terms.
Some survivors have serious trauma, Jones said, and right after the incident occurs may not be the best time to prosecute.
“Oftentimes, when we meet with folks involved in these cases, all the emotions are still very, very raw,” Jones said. ”It takes a lot of processing to get to that point where they’re ready to have conversations about what it would be like for them to testify in court.”
It may take them days, months, or years to be able to go forward with any type of legal action.
“It needs to be on their time and when they’re mentally prepared to do that,” Thiel said. “They know, ‘If I can’t deal with this right now, I have the possibility of being able to proceed at a different point.‘”
Some survivors may report right away, but others may delay their report. There are a multitude of reasons why, Thiel said, like being afraid of what family members might say, being scared of retaliation, and concerns of whether the survivor’s story will be believed.
This is why having an indefinite statute helps the survivor, Thiel said.
“We let them make the decisions. We let them drive the bus,” she said.
Jones said having a statute is like giving an …….