By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
October 22, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Legislation plugging a loophole in Florida law when it comes to 16 and 17 year old rape victims sailed through a Senate committee in the state capitol Tuesday.
Without the bill, young women in the age group may lose the opportunity to have their assailant prosecuted.
Children younger than 16 who are victims of rape have no time limitations on when they can report their assault, but there’s a glitch in the law.
16 and 17 year olds who are raped must report their assault within three days.
Even then, their assailant has to be prosecuted within eight years.
“It's just all over the map depending on the age group and we're try to bring that all into one conforming bill,” said Senator Linda Stewart who is sponsoring the bill that would remove the statute of limitation for any victim of sexual battery under the age of 18.
The legislation would give all children who are victims of rape as much time as they need to come forward.
Survivors of sexual assault took the podium in Tuesday’s meeting to plead for the change.
“That you allow victims in the state of Florida to heal as they need to heal,” said Danielle Sullivan, who was raped by a co-worker, but was unable to bring charges against him because she waited to report the crime until 43 days after the statute of limitations for her case expired.
Rena Romano, who was raped by a family member as a child and the again by a home intruder in her 20’s shared her story with lawmakers.
“I didn't tell anyone my secrets for years and in my late 20's I wound up in the hospital having a physical and a mental breakdown,” said Romano.
The testimony wasn’t in vain.
The bill passed with unanimous approval.
Even if the bill does ultimately become law, the change would only affect assaults that happen after July 2020.
Advocates like Romano said it’s all about giving future victims an option they didn’t have.
“It's too late for me, so it's not about me anymore. It's about helping those behind me,” said Romano.
Unlike in previous years, this bill has bipartisan support in both the Senate and House.
Bill Sponsor Senator Stewart said she hopes if the bill becomes law, it will open the door to eventually do away with the statute of limitations for all sexual battery, no matter the age of the victim.