Tallahassee, FL – October 1, 2012
The nation’s most comprehensive sexual abuse reporting law takes effect in Florida today, Oct. 1, as the state embarks on a statewide kindergarten-based education program to help young children avoid the traps predators set.
The law clarifies that all people have an obligation to report suspected sexual abuse of children, regardless of whether the suspected abuser is a parent, neighbor, friend or stranger. Previously, the state’s abuse hotline only took reports about sexual abuse by a child’s caregivers.
The law, HB 1355, “Protection of Vulnerable Persons,” also imposes a fine of up to $1 million on any public or private college or university whose administration or law enforcement agency willfully and knowingly fails to report child abuse that occurs on its campus, in any of its facilities, or at/during college or university-sponsored events and functions.
The law is intended to prevent the kind of institutional cover up that allowed the sexual abuse of children to persist for so long in several of the highly publicized national cases.
“We all knew it was our moral obligation to report child abuse,” abuse survivor and advocate Lauren Book said. “Now, the Florida Legislature has made it clear that reporting abuse is also a legal obligation with serious penalties.”
The law takes effect as Florida launches a comprehensive, statewide sexual abuse prevention curriculum in all kindergarten classes throughout the state to educate Florida’s youngest students about how to protect themselves from abuse. Called Safer, Smarter Kids, the curriculum was developed by Lauren Book’s Lauren’s Kids foundation at the direction of the 2011 Florida Legislature.
The bill also:
· Requires the Florida Child Abuse Hotline to accept child abuse reports even if the suspected abuser is not a direct caregiver. It also makes clear that everyone must report abuse, not just professionals previously specified as mandatory reporters, such as teachers and health care professionals. With this change, Florida has the strongest and the only fully mandatory abuse reporting law in the country.
· Provides relocation assistance for victims of sexual assault where there is a reasonable fear for their safety if they remain in their homes
Lauren’s Kids is a non-profit organization that works to prevent abuse and heal survivors. The organization, headquartered in Aventura, Florida, was started by Lauren Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who endured abuse at the hands of her nanny for six years. Her organization offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, elementary school prevention curriculum, an annual awareness walk and speaking engagements. For more information, visit laurenskids.org.