With attention directed in recent days at the victims of high-profile sex offenders like Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein, a bipartisan coalition of legislators have re-introduced a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations on reporting sexual offenses involving minors.
The bill, filed by Sen. Linda Stewart, would end the three year window for minors under the age of 18 to report sexual battery.
According to ABCActionNews, Stewart gathered support by having a sexual abuse survivor speak out about her experiences as a minor:
“Sixteen and 17-year-olds were given different thresholds of what they had to meet than 14,” she said. “There are some glitches in the statute.”
Advocates, in part, helped sway committee members. Rena Romano drove up from Tampa to tell her story to senators. She was a victim of incest, starting at the age of four.
“It’s taken quite a few years getting through all the trauma— working on the trauma,” Romano said. “Now that I’m strong enough and have the courage to speak up against my perpetrators, it’s too late for me.”
The bill eliminates the time limit altogether. If it is passed and signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, minors can report sexual battery when it makes sense for them to do so.
The bill has received bipartisan support in the legislature thus far:
“Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, has co-sponsored the measure, which the lawmakers hope will be taken up during the upcoming legislative session that begins in January.”
“The bill was inspired by women such as Donna Hedrick, who was abused by a teacher and buried her secret for more than 40 years, and numerous others who could have reported and possibly stopped notorious repeat offenders such as Jeffery Epstein had the statute of limitations not run,” a press release from Stewart said. (Source: News4Jax)
The senate Criminal Justice Committee greenlighted the legislation with a unanimous vote in October of last year, just two months after it was filed. The senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal Justice also passed the bill favorably during last Tuesday’s meeting.
The Appropriations committee passed the bill this morning and it will now go to the senate floor.
“Currently there are different limitations based on the crime and age of the victim. Young victims of sexual battery wait years and decades to come forward for a number of factors including lack of understanding of the crime,” Stewart testified during the hearing. “My bill simply provides that any child who is a victim of any form of sexual battery has the ability to seek justice at any point. This bill does not change the fact that the state has to prove a case against the accused with evidence, this bill only applies in instances after July 1st 2020.”
If passed, the bill goes to Governor DeSantis. If signed into law, it will go into effect July 1st.
The Appropriations committee mtg is scheduled to meet this AM, Feb. 27th starting at 9:00. There are many bills on the agenda! If you would like to view the agenda, watch 👀 &/or listen 👂click on link ➡️ https://t.co/55jNg68GTn. #flsenate #SD13 #District13 #2020Session pic.twitter.com/y7MKFqDMhy
— Linda Stewart (@LindaStewartFL) February 27, 2020