FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2011 file photo, former Penn State football defensive coordinator Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky sits in a car as he leaves the office of Centre County Magisterial District Judge Leslie A. Dutchcot in State College, Pa. Sandusky, who is charged with sexually abusing eight boys in a scandal that has rocked the university, said in an telephone interview with Bob Costas Monday night on NBC News' "Rock Center" that there was no abuse and that any activities in a campus shower with a boy were just horseplay, not molestation. (AP Photo/The Patriot-News, Andy Colwell, File)
TALLAHASSEE – November 18, 2011 -
Child sexual abuse survivor Lauren Book said the Penn State case and other new revelations of alleged abuse highlight the need to strengthen the law to require child abuse reporting and increase the penalties for failing to report.
Book said she will work with Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Rep. Chris Dorworth to encourage the Legislature to address murky and confusing areas in Florida’s child abuse reporting law and increase penalties for failing to report. While Florida law mandates any person to report the abuse of a child by someone responsible for the child’s welfare, it isn’t clear that all child abuse must be reported.
Florida law also specifies that persons in certain occupations – school and day care employees, law enforcement officers, health care workers and other specified professions – must provide their names when making reports to the hotline. Those persons are widely referred to as “mandatory reporters,” leading to the mistaken conclusion that only people in those occupations must report child abuse.
Since the Penn State revelations, allegations of child sexual abuse have been revealed at the Citadel and most recently at Syracuse University. Book said the allegations point to the need for a massive culture change in society’s acceptance of child sexual exploitation and abuse.
“How many more horrific cases like this will it take before our society says sexual abuse of children is unacceptable, and we won’t tolerate it?” Book said. “If we want to challenge the culture, we need to change the law.”
Book said her Florida legislative priorities in 2012 include increasing penalties for child sexual trafficking and requiring reporting of child sexual abuse by all persons. She said she also plans to advocate at the federal level to end the statute of limitations for reporting abuse of children younger than 16, a change she urged and helped to pass in Florida in 2010.
In a new revelation of alleged sexual abuse by an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University, police previously declined to take action because the statute of limitations had expired, according to news reports.
“There is no statute of limitations on how long it takes victims to heal – that takes a lifetime,” Book said. “There should be no statute of limitations shielding those who sexually abuse children.”
Book was a victim of child sexual abuse at the hands of her nanny from age 11 to 17. Her memoir, “It’s OK to Tell”, empowers survivors to come forward. Book and her father, Miami lobbyist Ron Book, have worked to change the law to better protect victims of sexual crimes, to end the statute of limitations for prosecution of sexual abuse, and to create predator-free zones around schools and day care centers.
“Our message is, it’s ok to tell,” Book said. “For that to be true, people need to be ready and willing to act on information and protect children.”