When a child comes forward to a trusted adult with allegations of abuse, they need to be taken seriously 100% of the time. The Florida Supreme Court recently heard the case McDade vs. State in which a young woman was continually abuse by her stepfather from age 10 to 16. The victim in the case came forward on multiple occasions, but when her mother did not believe her story, she felt compelled to secretly record episodes of abuse at the hands of her stepfather. According to court documents, the victim reported the abuse to not only her mother, but also a doctor and two church ministers and all failed to act in her defense. Lauren’s Kids advocates strongly for mandatory reporting in cases of child sexual abuse so incidents like this do not occur.
One of the strongest advocates we have in preventing child sexual abuse is the justice system and their ability to pass laws which bolster the cause. However, in the case of McDade vs. State, the convictions handed down as a result of the recordings were overturned during the appeal process. During the appeal, defending attorneys argued laws previously on the books regarding oral communication prohibited the admission of the secret recordings as evidence which greatly hurt the victim’s case. As a result, the court system has awarded the defendant with a new trial in which those recordings would not be permissible as evidence.
Lauren Book, CEO and Founder of Lauren’s Kids, was quick to respond, advocating for “the swift adoption of legislation that would allow courts to consider recordings made secretly by children as evidence that an adult has sexually abused them.” According to Lauren, “Last month’s McDade vs. State Florida Supreme Court ruling prevents prosecutors from using secret recordings made by children to prove they are being abused – it’s just not within the bounds of current Florida law, and that’s just not acceptable. The Florida Supreme Court agreed, directly calling upon the lawmakers to fix it.”
Thanks to SB542, introduced by State Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto (R – Ft. Myers), this unfortunate loophole in the system may soon be closed. The bill would allow secret recordings as evidence and would help provide another way in which children can speak up for their welfare without fear of being ignored.
According to Senator Benacquisto, under the new bill, “If someone under the 18 is the victim of sexual assault and they record their abuser they will be able to use that as evidence against that individual.”
Advocates for the prevention of child sexual abuse are hopeful the bill will pass without opposition. For more information about what you can do to help raise awareness for abuse, check out the education and awareness pages on the Lauren’s Kids website.