Use tragedy to review law limits
Gov. Mike DeWine is asking Ohio lawmakers to consider abolishing the state’s statute of limitations for sexual assault. His inspiration is the revelation that the late Dr. Richard Strauss sexually abused nearly 180 male Ohio State University students between 1979 and 1998. Though it is a moot point for Strauss, who killed himself in 2005, DeWine said the current statute of limitations means that, were he alive, Strauss likely could not be prosecuted today.
And Strauss certainly is not the only monster committing sex crimes in Ohio.
Right now, the statute of limitations for rape is 20 to 25 years, depending on the circumstances. Some other felony sex crimes must be prosecuted in as little as six years. Misdemeanor sex charges must be filed within two years, and civil lawsuits must be filed within one to two years.
Horrific as it may be, lawmakers must understand there are some victims who have not yet aged out of the guardianship of their abusers during that time frame. Others sometimes take years of counseling to gain the confidence to accuse their attackers.
DeWine has ordered a working group to study an unredacted version of an OSU report released last week to determine if the Ohio State Medical Board knew about Strauss’ abuse — and whether the board did anything about it.
“We can use this tragedy as an opportunity to review Ohio’s current laws and to take steps to change the culture of how we respond to sexual abuse,” DeWine said.
Lawmakers should not play politics with this request. The only finger-pointing it should inspire is toward the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, to serve notice that no amount of time will save them from the consequences of their deeds.