81ºF

Florida senator files legislation to lift barriers on rape prosecutions

photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) filed legislation for the upcoming session that would remove the statute of limitations for prosecution of rapes involving victims under the age of 18 when the attack occurs.

"Many young sexual battery victims do not come forward when they are first assaulted," Stewart said. "Sometimes they don't understand, sometimes they are afraid, and sometimes they are simply ashamed. Each victim processes these horrendous events in their own way and in their own time. Justice for these children should not be tied to a clock."

Under the legislation, if a victim is younger than 18 years of age at the time the offense was committed, a prosecution may be commenced at any time.

The bill was filed in response to a case involving Donna Hedrick, a constituent in Stewart's district, who was sexually abused as a 15-year-old high school student and buried her secret for more than 40 years. She later learned that five more girls were also abused. 

The teacher was never prosecuted.

The legislation would have allowed women such as Hedrick to seek justice as adults for sexual battery crimes committed against them as children.

Under current state law, first-degree felonies involving sexual battery must be prosecuted within four years after the offense. Prosecution of any other degree of felony sexual battery must commence within three years of the crime.

Stewart's bill would take effect on July 1, 2019, if adopted by the legislature and signed by the governor.