Rachel Sines: A survivor urges action on Marcy’s Law

Marsy’s Law for Florida placed clear, enforceable rights and protections for crime victims into the state constitution.

Twelve years ago, my life changed forever.

I walked into my home only to find a man with a gun inside. He sexually assaulted me at gunpoint before leaving with my car, my purse, and my dignity. I thought I was going to die. It was the most terrifying experience of my life.

But what happened next was also agonizing.

I was now left to navigate a complex criminal justice system that didn’t consider me or my rights equal to that of my attacker. I had no right to privacy.

During the time between my attacker’s switch from a private attorney to a public defender, he acted as his own counsel. This meant he was afforded access to all my personal information, as well as depositions given from witnesses.

My attacker made harassing phone calls to me and my witnesses from jail, asking us not to testify against him.

I also did not have much of a voice in the process.

My attacker was originally given four consecutive life sentences because of the violent nature of his crime, but recently, his sentence was reduced, and he will be eligible for parole. Although I was allowed to provide my opinion, the court was not required to factor it into its decision, even though it directly impacted my safety.

Fortunately, what happened to me during my experience with the courts should no longer happen to other survivors since Floridians passed Marsy’s Law for Florida in November.

Marsy’s Law for Florida placed clear and enforceable rights and protections for crime victims into the state constitution.

The state and U.S. Constitution already delineated rights for the accused and convicted. Now, Florida’s Constitution provides specific, coequal rights for crime victims, including the right to be informed of court proceedings, right to have a voice in the process and right to updates regarding your offender’s release.

Enshrining these rights in our state’s most powerful document was critical, but more work remains.

The Florida Legislature has before it an implementing bill, which will provide further clarity on how the new constitutional language should be interpreted and implemented. It will ensure equal protection to every crime victim in Florida regardless of where they live or where they’re victimized by criminals.

And, it will ensure that these rights and protections are uniformly and consistently applied to all victims and that those within the justice system understand how to uniformly and consistently provide these rights and protections.

This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. It is a time when we reflect on the progress we have made for victims’ rights’ and look toward what still must be done.

I can think of no better time for the Florida Legislature to take action on Marsy’s Law for Florida implementing bill and ensure every crime victim in our state has access to the rights and protections voters intended.


Rachel Sines is a sexual assault survivor living in the Orlando area

Guest Author


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