The Dallas Morning News reports that State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, has proposed an overhaul of sexual assault laws. Specifically, in a recent speech in Dallas, she proposed nixing the 10 year Statute-of-Limitations for rape, which in Texas law lists as a Second Degree Felony, with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison (Aggravated Rape, on the other hand, is a 1st Degree Felony). The article from the Morning News notes that the statute of limitations does not apply in offenses that involve a child in any way, or offenses regarding untested or mismatching DNA evidence.
Davis, for her part, has been remarkably focused on the topic of sexual assault. She has been a tireless force for ensuring local municipality’s police departments (Houston included) test their untested rape kits, and her first campaign ad was even totally centered on that topic. At a press conference a couple days ago in Dallas, Davis noted the stories of survivors of sexual assault, such as Lavinia Masters, who cold not press charges for the heinous attacks against them because the decade-long statute of limitations had run out.
Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, for his part, fired back by claiming that he is a vehement defender of survivors of sexual assault, and will intently prosecute all rapists to the fullest extent of the law. Granted, the Office of Attorney General is tasked with going after some of the worst-of-the-worst, including Statewide serial sex offenders, the same type of degenerate targeted by Davis’ announcement on this topic.
“Victims of sexual assault in Texas have no greater advocate than Greg Abbott, who as attorney general has spearheaded the arrests of over 4,500 sex offenders and awarded over $1 billion to victims of crimes like sexual assault and domestic violence,” Abbott’s campaign said.
Pointedly, I have not seen any evidence that Abbott has concurred to Davis’ suggestion, which I actually find surprising. Even in the midst of an especially bitter political campaign, there will always be rays of light that I would hope the two sides could ostensibly come to some type of consensus on. Strengthening penalties and laws on rapists should be one of those.
In an ideal world, this should be the type of no-brainer that both parties quickly attempt to claim as their policy, and the Legislature would quickly pass the fix next session. Unfortunately, Abbott may very well avoid taking a position on the issue, just because Davis made a note of her position on it first. That is unfortunate, not only for the Governor’s race, but for everyone in Texas, namely the victims of a horrible, horrible crime.
But if Abbott continues to equivocate on this issue, Davis should show him no mercy. I can hear the television commercials now: “Wendy Davis is tough on crime; she wants to ELIMINATE the statute-of-limitations for rape. Greg Abbott wants to continue with business as usual.”
Will Wendy Davis approve this message? Only time will tell. The priority, though, should not be scoring political points, it should be improving our laws. Short of that, however, use it.