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A superhero for women's rights

Linda Kirkpatrick, owner of the Nothing Bundt Cakes franchise on 17th Street in Costa Mesa, is a superhero in my book.

It's not just because she's helping with the upcoming Oct. 22 Haunted Halloween Super Heroes Guild for Heroes Hall veterans museum fundraiser (Disclosure: I'm on the veteran hall's board) at the OC Fairgrounds. She's a hero for initiating change to California state law that will hopefully bring justice to rape and sexual assault victims.

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The current statute of limitations on prosecuting felony rape and assault cases is 10 years after the crime occurs. Kirkpatrick feels there should be no limit.

"In California, if you embezzle funds, there is no statute of limitation," she says. "As a woman, our value is less than funding."

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Kirkpatrick's passion stems from personal experience.

She's one of the "Cosby 58," women who've made allegations of sexual assault and harassment against comedian Bill Cosby. Kirkpatrick and several other Californians started a movement called End Rape SOL — short for statute of limitations.

"End Rape SOL is not about Cosby," she says. "We can't stop rape, but maybe we can give victims a fighting chance."

The message is spreading. Kirkpatrick looks to the day when the statute of limitations for these crimes is nonexistent nationwide.

As part of this crusade, the group sought out legislators to change the law here.

In January,Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) authored Senate Bill 813, the "Justice for Victims Act," which was co-sponsored by the California Women's Law Center and San Bernadino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos. The bill cleared the Assembly Thursday.

"According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only 2 in 100 rapists will be convicted of a felony and spend any time in prison," states Leyva's news release about SB813. "The other 98% will never be punished for their crime."

If signed into law, SB813 wouldn't be retroactive, so it doesn't help any of Cosby's alleged victims in California.

Rape is a sensitive subject. Victims often don't come forward, due to shame and stigma.

But times are changing. Kirkpatrick calls it the "Cosby Affect," due to the massive media coverage.

"More of these crimes are being reported," she says.

She speaks freely about it now and shared her chilling tale with me, recounting how she met Cosby at a celebrity tennis tournament In Las Vegas when she was 25.

Kirkpatrick and her tennis partner were matched with Cosby, who was in town performing, and another player.

He invited his tennis opponents to see his show, but Kirkpatrick's partner had already seen it, so she went alone. Afterward, Cosby's "handler" escorted her backstage to a party in his dressing room.

The handler gave her champagne with a strawberry, which looked odd as the drink had no bubbles.

It tasted terrible, she says.

Halfway through the glass, Kirkpatrick felt strange.

The next thing she remembers is being backstage where the "spotlight operator works." Cosby's handler explained that's where he wanted her. Her next recollection was back in Cosby's dressing room with him on top of and kissing her.

"I remember thinking, 'Why are you kissing me with your wife's I.D. bracelet on?'" she tells me.

She says she tried resisting, but couldn't move. She is not entirely sure what happened next.

Later, Kirkpatrick found herself in her bed, sick to her stomach and alone, with no clue how she got there.

When she returned to the tennis center the next day, Cosby called.

Confronting him, he told her she had "the wrong idea" and claimed she "drank too much."

"For 35 years, whenever anyone mentioned Cosby's name to me I'd just tell people he's a pig who cheats on his wife," she said.

But questions swirled in her head for years.

It wasn't until she saw other women coming forward, telling stories similar to hers, that she came to terms with what allegedly happened to her.

In June the state Senate approved SB 813, and Kirkpatrick tells me all indicators are it will pass the Assembly as well.

On the End Rape SOL Facebook page, organizers are planning a rally in Sacramento Sept.6 to support SB813 and urge Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the "Justice for Victims Act" into law.

Of the Cosby 58, all but one case pending is not past the statute of limitations.

Of the Cosby 58, all but one case is past the statute of limitations

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FOR THE RECORD

A previous version of this column misstated the number of pending Crosby 58 cases past the statute of limitations. All but one case is past the statute of limitations.

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BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com. Listen to her weekly radio segment on "Sunday Brunch with Tom and Lynn" from 11 a.m. to noon on KOCI/101.5 FM.

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