In a Seattle courtroom yesterday, a woman, 49, told how she was raped by a male relative 33 years ago. She didn’t tell anyone, and the statute of limitations expired. Roger Alan Scherner, the man she accused, has since been accused by more than half a dozen relatives of rape and child molestation over several decades. The Seattle Times says a new state law is allowing her painful story to be heard in an effort to prosecute Scherner, 79, on charges involving a relative allegedly molested during a family vacation when she was 7.
The law went into effect in June. It makes it much easier for alleged prior victims of a defendant to testify as witnesses in a current sexual-offense case. Before, prosecutors could raise a defendant’s alleged sexual-offense history under very narrow circumstances. The new law addresses sexual offenses separately and broadens the guidelines for allowing evidence into trial. The change will help prosecute and convict sexual offenders, legal observers and victims’ advocates predict. “It makes a huge difference,” said Mary Ellen Stone of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. Evidence of a pattern of abuse over years can be critical in a prosecution, Stone said. The new law was spurred in part by public pressure after the arrest of a convicted sex offender for the 2007 kidnapping, rape and slaying of a 12-year-old girl.