JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Rape victims would have unlimited time to bring a case against their assailants under legislation moving in the Florida Senate.
It would remove the statute of limitations on most forms of sexual assault, regardless of the age of the perpetrator or victim.
Rena Romano was the victim of incest as a child and was revictimized when she says she was raped by a co-worker in her 20s.
The assailant threatened her life if she told anyone.
“Being threatened to be killed, I knew I should keep silent,” said Romano.
And she did.
It wasn’t until decades later that she shared her story, but at that point, it was too late to hold her assailant accountable in a court of law.
“The statute of limitations doesn’t ever run out for us. We have to live with this for the rest of our life,” said Romano.
In Florida, if a victim reports a rape within 72 hours there is no statute of limitations for prosecuting the perpetrator.
However, if they miss the three-day window, they only have eight years to commence a prosecution.
Stefan Turkheimer with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network explains in many cases, that isn’t enough time.
“Crimes like these, they inflict a tremendous amount of trauma on the survivor and sometimes the survivor needs time to work through that and sometimes that’s a time more than eight years,” said Turkheimer.
But under the legislation now teed up for a floor vote in the Florida Senate, future victims of sexual battery would be given unlimited time to come forward and hold their assailant accountable.
“It’s only changing the time limit. It doesn’t change the requirement for evidence. It doesn’t change what you need in order to make a case,” said Turkheimer.
Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert Dale Carson has some concerns with the idea.
He argued the statute of limitations does have a purpose.
“The fact that witnesses disappear, memories fade and change over decades and so the result is there might be unfair convictions if there wasn’t a statute of limitations,” said Cason.
The legislation would not be retroactive, which means those who were already victims of sexual assault prior to the bill’s July 1, 2022 effective date wouldn’t benefit, but future victims would.
For advocates and survivors like Romano who ran out of time, the legislation brings hope future victims will receive the justice they’re owed.
“Now it’s about me advocating to get these laws changed so that other people will get justice,” said Romano.
Lawmakers made some headway on the issue back in 2020 with the passing of Donna’s Law.
It eliminated the statute of limitations for victims under the age of 18, but this year’s legislation would grant the same opportunity for justice to victims of any age.
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