In November 1979, then 17-year-old Danielle Tudor became serial rapist Richard Troy Gillmore’s third reported victim when he broke into her home and assaulted her. He became known as “Portland’s Jogger Rapist,” as he found women while he was out jogging, followed them home, and attacked them when they were alone. After her rape, Tudor reported her attack, underwent a rape kit and worked with the police to create a sketch of her attacker. The sketch became key evidence in his arrest and conviction, seven years later. Nine other victims eventually reported their attacks, but at the time, Oregon’s statute of limitations on rape in the first degree was only three years. Despite Gillmore’s countless rape offenses, he was only prosecuted for one rape, in 1987. The police and prosecutors did not fail Tudor; Oregon’s statute of limitations did.
“Not only was I locked out of the justice system, but seven other known victims were, as well. The words “justice” and “healing” will never be used in the same sentence for at least eight of us victims of Richard Gillmore,” said Tudor at a press conference on May 26. In Oregon, Tudor and another victim, Brenda Tracy, are demanding a change. Twenty-five states, ranging from liberal New York to reliably Republican Wyoming, have no statute of limitations on rape at all. In six states, the statutes of limitations are longer, ranging from 25 to 15 years. Twelve states have 12 to 7 years and 8 states, including Oregon, have six years or fewer. “Right now, finally, we are seeing a movement across the country where victims of rape are using their voices to bring change to a crime that has remained nameless and faceless for far too long. Along with those voices comes change. Part of that change is longer statutes of limitations on rape, where perpetrators are held accountable for a more reasonable amount of time. The time has come for Oregon to live up to its progressive reputation on behalf of rape victims,” Tudor continued in the press conference.
On Wednesday May 27, the State Senate Judiciary Committee will hear public testimony on House Bill 2317 to amend the bill to a 20-year statute of limitations in the state of Oregon. Danielle Tudor will be testifying along with Annie Clark, co-founder of End Rape On Campus. Women In The World spoke with Tudor and Clark about their hopes to bring justice to rape survivors.
Women In The World: You are hoping to get the statute of limitations raised from six years to 20 years. Can you talk about the bills you’re hoping to get passed to change this?
Danielle Tudor: In 2009, I worked with Oregon Crime Victims United, and we successfully eliminated our statute of limitations on rape charges with DNA evidence. However, when I read in The Oregonian about Brenda Tracy’s case after she came forward in late 2014, I realized that our statute of limitations on rape charges like mine, without DNA evidence, was only six years. On February 2, 2015, I made an appointment with Oregon State Representative Jeff Barker (D-District 28, Aloha), Chair of the State House Judiciary Committee. I invited Brenda Tracy to go with me. I didn’t know then that Barker had tried several times previously to extend our statute of limitations on rape. I became the requestor for House Bill 2317. The next day, February 3, the media reported on the bill.
The only reason it’s gotten as far as it has is that it took State Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-South Lane and North Douglas Counties), the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, by surprise. Senator Prozanski is very powerful, and is reputed to favor perpetrators. If he had learned about HB2317 before the public did, he would have killed it. HB2317 is a modest bill. It asks for an extension of the statute of limitations only on the most heinous sex crimes: rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree, unlawful penetration with a foreign object, and sexual abuse in the first degree.
I had wanted to eliminate Oregon’s statute of limitations altogether. However, Brenda Tracy and I also met with representatives of Oregon’s defense bar, who thought that a six-year statute of limitations was plenty long enough. Because of their opposition, I felt that a 20-year statute of limitations was a good compromise.
HB2317 originally came before the House Judiciary Committee asking for a 20-year statute of limitations on rape, or none at all. Two days before the Committee’s public hearing, State Senator Prozanski demanded that the bill include an amendment asking for 12 years. He threatened to refuse to hear HB2317 if it reached his own Committee asking for anything more than 12 years.
Brenda Tracy and I testified at the House Judiciary Committee hearing, along with another survivor who worked to extend Indiana’s statute of limitations from five to 10 years. We asked for a statute of limitations of 20 years or none at all. I’ve traveled across Oregon to speak to other survivors and advocates, and I know that 20 years makes sense to most of the public. I also know we had the votes in the House Judiciary Committee for 20 years.
WITW: Why did you both choose to testify in this hearing?
Annie Clark: Because if a survivor chooses to come forward they should have the right to be heard. There are so many barriers to reporting as it is, that I wanted to help knock down at least one of them.
DT: Ironically, a 12-year statute of limitations would give me justice. But it wouldn’t serve Brenda Tracy, who did not have the strength to go to court until about 17 years after her gang rape – or many other victims, either. We both started off asking for 20 years or no statute of limitations at all.
WITW: What exactly will be taking place at this hearing this week? Who will be testifying?
DT: It’s a public hearing, so anyone can arrive at the hearing room on the third floor of the Oregon State Capitol, sign up on a sheet to testify, and give oral testimony in the order that you signed in. Anyone also can submit written testimony to the Committee clerk that the Committee members can read. The District Attorney from Clatsop County, which has the highest incidence of rape in Oregon, will submit written testimony.
WITW: What else do we need to know about the statute of limitations in Oregon and elsewhere?
DT: Considering that the vast majority of states have either no statute of limitations on rape (with or without DNA evidence) or much longer statutes of limitations than Oregon’s, we are seeing a nation-wide movement concerning statute of limitations law.
In other state legislatures, the trend in 2015 has been to extend statutes of limitations. Four states – Indiana, Nevada, Florida, and Ohio – recently did so.
In 1989, the statute of limitations on rape in Oregon was extended to six years. Since then, 26 years ago, it has not been extended again. So if Gillmore were prosecuted today, I still would not receive justice along with seven other victims. At present, Oregon is an outlier.
WITW: What is the hope you have for other rape survivors in Oregon and worldwide?
AC: I hope that survivors worldwide know that it is never their fault and that they are not alone. I hope survivors in Oregon and elsewhere know that there is no one right way to go about healing. The decision to report is a personal one, but there should be mechanisms in place so that if a survivor chooses to go through that process, their case will not be “tossed out” due to an arbitrary statute of limitations.
DT: In Oregon, I hope 20 years passes. I want to help other states that still have short statutes of limitations to pass longer ones. I want Oregon, which has a progressive reputation, to set an example for the other states whose statutes of limitations are shamefully low, just as ours has been. It is possible to join hands across the nation and help one another, and I want to be part of that movement.
I want rape to be recognized as a very serious crime, and for victims to receive justice. Too often, the words “justice” and “healing” cannot be used in the same sentence for rape survivors. And that needs to change. A longer statute of limitations can help. Studies show that if a victim receives justice, their chance for healing is greatly increased.
Worldwide, I hope other survivors realize how many of us there are. My outspokenness is unusual: too many other survivors suffer in silence, fear, and isolation. I hope others will tell their stories. Even as we become more educated about the effects of rape trauma, we still have a portion of the population that doesn’t understand or perhaps believe that rape is as devastating as research shows. Certainly in my own life my rape left its mark of fear on me. Since then, I must take extraordinary measures to feel safe in my own home. I believe that the more rape survivors tell their stories publicly; other survivors will be inspired to face their own truth without fear. And as we begin to face our fears, the more fearless we become. We turn the table on our rapists and now they must fear our voices and the changes for justice we bring.