Woman sexually abused while in state care as child awarded $1M

Woman says DCF knew great-uncle was sex offender, left her in his home

By Mike Vasilinda - Tallahassee Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida lawmakers have approved a million dollar payment to a young woman who was sexually abused as a child while in state care.

According to records, the Department of Children and Families knew the woman, who News4Jax is calling L.T., was in the home of a sex offender when it closed her case.

L.T., now a married mother of two who lives in Jacksonville, was placed in the care of her great-aunt and uncle when she was a child.

The great-uncle, Eddie Thomas, was convicted of a sex offense two years after L.T. arrived in the home, but DCF did nothing to remove her from the home.

“They closed my case after the sex offense,” L.T. said.

While living in the home, L.T. was physically and verbally abused from ages 2 to 10.

“Toward the end, I was sexually abused by my uncle. He was my blood uncle,” she said. “I ran away from home.”

A decade ago, DCF didn’t go back into a home to check on the welfare of a child if someone in the home was later convicted of a sex offense.

That policy changed after L.T.’s case came to light.

“I decided I didn’t want that to be who I am anymore,” L.T. said. “I didn’t want to be a victim. I wanted to be a survivor.”

Claims bills are few and far between, but state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, pushed L.T.'s million dollar claim.

“She highlighted that inconsistency in our process and how wrong that was,” Benacquisto said. “She was a very courageous girl.”

L.T. is now going to school in Jacksonville and said she hopes to stop what happened to her from happening to other young women.

“My experience has given me insight into some of the things children are going through, and it has also given me a passion to protect children,” she said.

A special master in the case concluded that it was foreseeable that L.T. would more than likely be sexually abused if she was left in Thomas' home. DCF did not contest the payment.

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