MILFORD – Survivors of sexual assault spoke at Wayside Youth & Family Services Survivor’s Open Mic Night on Wednesday, April 26, advocating for changes in the statute of limitations for rape in Massachusetts, which is currently 15 years.
Wayside provides trauma and addiction treatment across seven locations in Massachusetts and held the event as part of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
According to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277 § 63, legal proceedings must commence within 15 years after the commission of the offense of rape of persons 17 years old or older or, if the victim is under 16 years old at the time of the offense, within 15 years of the victim turning 16 years old. The same section of Massachusetts Law sets the crime of rape of a child, defined as 16 years old or younger, as without a time limit to commence legal proceedings.
Jess Newell and Lynn Kee both spoke of their own experiences with sexual assault, addiction and the legal system. Advocating together, they seek the statute of limitations for rape to be raised to 30 years. Both women requested that This Week in Worcester publish their names.
Among those who struggle with substance abuse, studies show a high percentage are survivors of sexual assault. For example, one study found 81 percent of women and 68 percent of men seeking substance abuse treatment report prior physical or sexual abuse.
Newell spoke about her experience of sexual assault, years of denial of being a victim, and battling alcohol abuse. After substantial trauma counseling, post-traumatic stress disorder treatment and alcohol abuse recovery, she came forward to report her assault. The statute of limitations had expired four months earlier.
Kee spoke of being groomed as a teen by a family friend over several months before being assaulted several times, the secondary trauma of a mistrial and second trial that led to the perpetrator’s conviction, a long battle with substance abuse, and the importance of adequate trauma and substance abuse treatment. She also said she recently obtained a protective order after seeing the perpetrator at her church after his release from prison.
Kee also discussed her sister, Amanda Hernandez, who was forcibly raped around a year after reporting her own assault. Hernandez also battled chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse for many years before her death in January, leaving behind three children.
Hernandez’s perpetrator was also convicted. He is scheduled for release from prison this year.
Bill Kee, former Chief of the Ashland Fire Department and U.S. Army Reserves Sergeant Major, and father of Kee and Hernandez, also spoke of the effects on their family that continue today. He has custody of his three grandchildren after Hernandez’s death.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over half of women and nearly one in three men have experienced sexual violence during their lifetime. One in four women and about one in 26 men have been raped or experienced attempted rape. The estimated lifetime cost of rape for a victim, including medical costs, lost productivity, criminal justice activities, and other costs, is $122,461.
Wayside Youth & Family Services operates a 24-hour confidential hotline as part of its rape crisis intervention program at (800) 511-5070.