Earlier this month, Wendy Davis fell into the gutter with a new ad accusing current Texas Attorney General and fellow gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott of being soft on rape. Politicos on both sides of the aisle were put off by the ad, and many consultants believe that she may have actually damaged her image with undecided voters.
Apparently her campaign staff realized this was a likely result of an ad that was basically an exploitative non sequitur, because this week Davis began touting her plan to end the statute of limitations on criminal sexual assault cases.
Via the Dallas Morning News:
In recent weeks, she’s toured the state touting bills she pushed in the Texas Legislature that led to rape kits being tested so victims could receive justice.
Last week in Dallas, she stood with Lavinia Masters and other rape survivors. According to Davis, Masters didn’t get justice because time ran out on officials seeking to close her case.
“Eliminating the statute of limitations for rape will help to right that wrong by making sure that survivors like Lavinia will never again will have to forgo justice just because someone stood back and let the clock run out on their case,” Davis said.
The Davis campaign pointed to several Texas rape case where the criminals got away with the crime because of the statute of limitations.
Right now in Texas, there is a ten year statute of limitations on the prosecution of felony sexual assault cases. There is no statute of limitations on the prosecution of sexual assault on a child, or in cases where DNA is recovered but no match can be found. What Davis wants to do is put felony sexual assault on the same level as crimes like murder, manslaughter, and human trafficking, the prosecution of which is not limited by statute.
Davis’s suggestion, while potentially controversial, is not unprecedented. Eight states, including South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, currently have no statute of limitations for prosecuting felony sexual assault.
Lawyers and analysts can argue all day about whether or not this would be a productive move for Texas, but that tends not to matter on an issue like this one, at least within the context of a high-profile election. Davis is using this as a way to set herself apart: her ad against Abbott tanked, and her past efforts to address rape kit backlogs are similar to those spearheaded by Republican-led bipartisan coalitions in Washington. Additionally, General Abbott revealed a plan back in February to protect children from predators, and curb sexual aggression in the form of “revenge porn.”
Because it’s left to the states to decide whether or not they want to put limitations on prosecution, this particular issue presents an opportunity for Davis to, if nothing else, cause a stir in the legal community and provide her campaign team with a brand new “women’s issue” to run into the ground.
That being said, this is an issue that resonates beyond the activist feminist community, and Davis has the advantage of an already-established emotional connection with many victims of sexual assault. If Republicans choose to ignore this connection (both on the state level, and on a national level,) they do so at their own peril.DONATE
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