By Lauren Book
The 2015 legislative session begins tomorrow and several bills have been introduced that will help protect childhood and prevent child sexual abuse. We are working with lawmakers and advocating for the passage of legislation that will keep children safe, make it easier for them to get help and prevent offenders from reoffending. With 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys falling victim to sexual abuse before their 18th birthday, we must use every tool at our disposal to protect children from the horrors of sexual abuse.
This legislative session, Florida lawmakers will have the opportunity to pass several pieces of legislation empowering survivors and toughening laws against abusers. These bills, for which Lauren’s Kids helped draft language and are now being heard in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, include HB 7001 sponsored by Rep. Jared Moskowitz and Rep. Gayle Harrell, SB 542 introduced by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.
HB 7001, SB 542 seek to empower children who are being sexually abused by making it legal for victims to intercept and record an abuser without the abuser’s consent. Sexual predators often use the fear of not being believed to trap their victims into silence. This was most recently seen in McDade v. State, in which the Florida Supreme Court ruled a young girl’s recording of her abuser could not be used as evidence during trial, due to his lack of knowledge and consent.
There should not be a time limit on the ability of a victim to report abuse, seek justice and get closure. Wife, mother, advocate and rape survivor Danielle Sullivan of Orlando has worked with her local representative, Rene Plasencia, to advocate for the extension of the statute of limitations from its current cap of four years after her experience left her traumatized and unable to come forward for four years and 43 days after the crime was committed … only to find that she was 43 days outside the current statute of limitations. Way to go, Danielle!!! We can’t wait to walk with this incredible survivor and advocate on our 2015 “Walk in My Shoes.”
In 2010, Lauren’s Kids worked with lawmakers to develop and advocate for the passage of a similar bill which, when signed into law, officially eliminated the statute of limitations on sex crimes committed on victims between the ages of 12 and 16 in Florida. This year, legislators will have the opportunity to extend the statute of limitations from four years to 10 years for victims 16 years of age or older by supporting CS/HB 133 sponsored by Rep. Plasencia and SB 1270 introduced by Sen. Darren Soto.
There are more than 42 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the United States. By advocating for legislation that makes it easier for victims to get help and keeps predators from reoffending, we can give a voice to the victims and prevent others from enduring the horrors of child sexual abuse. Lauren’s Kids has already taken proactive efforts to make Florida a safer place through advocacy for the passage of nearly two dozen state laws that protect children from abuse and provide support for survivors of sexual violence. We urge you to stand alongside Lauren’s Kids and support legislation that protects our children and continues to make Florida a safer and smarter place for children.