A Senate committee approved a bill Monday that would allow victims to come forward at any time to seek prosecutions in sexual assault cases they allege occurred back when they were minors.
Senate Bill 130, pushed by Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando, would eliminate statutes of limitations on such prosecutions, which requires reports to be presented to prosecuted sometime between three and eight years after the alleged assaults occurred, depending on the victim’s age and other factors.
“My bill simply removes this limitation and will allow those individuals to report sexual battery at any time,” Stewart told the committee Monday. “If a victim is younger than 18 years of age, a prosecution for the violation may be commenced at any time. This bill does not grandfather in individuals before the effective date of July 1, 2019.”
The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice approved the bill unanimously with no questions or debate from the panel.
When she introduced the bill, Stewart said she filed it in response to a case involving Donna Hedrick, a constituent in her Senate District 13 in Orange County, 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.
Stewart also cited the case of Palm Beach financier Jeffrey Epstein, the high-society financier who’s been the subject of investigations by the Miami Herald and other media and of a civil lawsuit regarding allegations that he sexually abused scores of underage girls. Epstein received a plea deal for a light sentence.
A companion bill, House Bill 395, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando, and has been assigned to that chamber’s Criminal Justice Subcommittee and other committees.