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Sexual assault victim-survivors advocate for bill that may eliminate statute of limitations

Sarah Super, Asma Mohammed and Laura Stearns say they want to give victim-survivors a choice when it comes to seeking legal justice.

ST PAUL, Minn. — On April 4th of 2019, Sarah Super stood behind an assortment of Ramsey County officials who vowed to change how they respond to sexual assault. They put forward a "victim-centered" plan that included sensitivity training for all law enforcement officers so they would be well-equipped when talking to victims of sexual-assault.

"Of all places to be assaulted, I am grateful I was assaulted in one of the most progressive counties," Super had said on that April day a year ago. She explained that today marks five years since her assault and her report. She recounted back in April of 2019 that she was met with compassion by everyone when she made her report.

Since then, she never stopped working for victim-survivor advocacy. However, today, her focus was way larger than just Ramsey county's boundaries.

"By eliminating the statute of limitations, we are eliminating one barrier that hinders survivors from being heard," Super said. 

Super was at the capitol to attend a hearing on House File 734, which would eliminate the statute of limitations when it comes to sex-crimes. Super explained why eliminating it completely would give back a choice that was taken from victim-survivors.

"We also see survivors change their minds," she said. "When someone else names their perpetrator, eliminating the statute of limitations not only gives survivors the choice to report, if they're ready, when they're ready. But [it] also allows them to change their minds of how they originally approach their assault if someone else names their perpetrator."

RELATED: KARE 11 Investigates: MN fails thousands of sexual assault victims

Working alongside Super, are advocates like Asma Mohammed. Mohammed is not only the advocacy director of reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment, but also a victim-advocate herself.

"I was assaulted when I was like 12-years-old," she said. She explained that the current statute of limitations of around six to nine years flashed before her eyes before she could even come to terms with what happened to her.

"My time had long passed," Mohammed said. "I can't report, this man went on to hurt other people. My testimony could never be used in a case against him. That's the reality of this bill. It could change lives--it could change who sees justice."

Both Mohammed and Super clarified that the bill will not take effect retroactively. Meaning that its passage--if it does pass, won't do much for them and their search for justice. It also won't legally help Laura Stearns, who has been vocal about the abuse she endured during her teenage years at the Children's Theater Company.

"I do what I can to heal myself and I want to create as solid a platform I can for other victims moving forward so they don't have to suffer in silence," Stearns said when asked why she continues to fight for this cause. "I want to create a solid platform I can for other victims moving forward so they don't have to suffer in silence. So they actually have a way to speak in a legal way that will support what they're saying."

"This will only work on assaults that happen going forward," Super said. "With that in mind, I think we have widespread, bipartisan support. When people think about their children, families, young people in their lives, I think they can stand behind this bill will full faith that survivors deserve the choice to report whenever, if ever, they're ready."

RELATED: Lawmakers want fixes to rape kit problems exposed by KARE 11

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