TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS SERVICES) – One in three girls falls victim to sexual abuse before turning 18. The same is true for one in five boys.
Due to a patchwork of laws around sexual battery in Florida, it can be difficult to hold perpetrators accountable.
Florida’s statute of limitations for sexual battery on a minor varies based on the victim and perpetrators’ age.
Often times, victims are too late to come forward to press charges.
But legislation named ‘Donna’s Law’ moving through the Legislature would create consistency by removing the statute of limitations for sexual battery on anyone under the age of 18.
Victims like Kim Jaime who said she had been sexually abused by her father when she was a child, shared their stories at the bill’s final committee hearing in the House.
“I missed statute of limitations in the State of Florida by six months,” said Jaime.
And speaking publicly for the first time was Donna Hedrick, the woman who inspired the legislation.
Hedrick said she was raped by a chorus teacher at 15-years-old. She suffered in silence for 40 years.
“Only at night would I lay awake, unable to fall asleep so many times. When I did sleep I had terrible dreams about what happened,” said Hedrick.
Donna finally came forward after meeting other victims of her rapist.
“And we were finally able, face to face, to have him admit his actions to us,” said Hedrick.
But the statute of limitations had run out for all of them.
Supporters note Donna’s Law still requires there to be enough evidence to commence an investigation and it leaves the constitutional rights of the accused intact.
It would also only apply to future cases. Donna still won’t be able to seek justice, but she said the bill isn’t for her.
“There are many Donna’s out there who deserve their day in court,” said Hedrick.
Donna’s Law is ready for the House floor, but its future is uncertain.
It hasn’t moved in the Senate since clearing its first committee in October.