PORTLAND -- Victim advocates are pushing a new effort to eliminate the statute of limitations on child sex abuse.
They plan to introduce a bill in the next legislative session.
"Its our responsibility to children to protect them," said Klarissa Oh, Executive Director of Oregon Abuse Advocates & Survivors in Service.
Letty Merritt feels Oregon law shut her out of the system. The Portland woman said she was sexually abused as a child by four male relatives. She hid the abuse from friends and classmates.
"I just wanted to feel like all the other girls, I didn't want to be different, but I felt different," said Merritt. In college, Merritt spoke briefly with a counselor.
It wasn't until decades later, after getting married, that she was finally able to talk about the abuse. Merritt wanted to press charges. But found out she couldn't.
"Why do I keep falling through the cracks, why again?" questioned Merritt.
Oregon has a 6-year statute of limitations on most sex crimes. The law allows for a longer period of time if the victim is under the age of 18. In those cases, the crime can be prosecuted any time before the victim turns 30, or within 12 years after the crime is reported to police or social workers.
Nationwide, 33 states have eliminated the statute of limitations on some or all child sex offenses, but not Oregon. In 2011, the Oregon legislature considered eliminating the statute of limitations, but the bill died in committee.
Criminal defense attorneys argue that statute of limitations exist because over time, witnesses may die, memories may fade, or critical evidence may be destroyed or lost.
"Bringing the allegation as close in time to when the claimed event occurred really provides the fairest opportunity to have a trial," explained Janet Hoffman of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
Victim advocates note these cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
"Even if we change this law, that doesn't mean that prosecutors all over the state are going to go around to start prosecuting 30 and 40-year-old cases," added Randy Ellison of OAASIS.