SALT LAKE CITY — A Clearfield woman who was sexually assaulted as a teenager did not get justice at the time, but today she has the satisfaction of seeing that her advocacy has resulted in a law expanding the prosecution window for such crimes.
Jenna Nelson was a guest in the Utah Senate Tuesday afternoon when senators voted 27-0 for House Bill 247, which extends to 10 years from the current four years the statute of limitations on unlawful sexual activity with a minor and unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old.
The bill now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.
“I’m grateful to have been able to go through this process and witness the system actually work, and work correctly,” Nelson said later. “But also to see that a normal citizen can take a stand and effect change. I asked questions. I was a pest sometimes. But here we are.”
Nelson was abused repeatedly by a teacher from age 14 to 17, but the offender threatened her to keep quiet. She did not report the crimes until 17 years later after undergoing counseling for severe depression.
Roy police, prosecutors in Davis and Weber counties and the Utah Attorney General’s Office investigated and verified the crimes, but no charges could be filed because of the four-year statute of limitations.
Nelson approached Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, who worked with her to have the bill drafted.
Even expanding it to 10 years would not help Nelson, but she pushed for the legislation to aid future victims.
Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said widening the prosecution window recognizes that teens are not fully capable of processing such “horrific events” in their lives.
He said psychologists have concluded that it may take until the early to mid 20s for a victim to make a “full evaluation” and seek prosecution.
Referring to Nelson, Anderegg said, “This limitation effectually denied her of this justice.”