Florida Lifts Bar on Time Limits regarding Sexual Abuse Victims

On May 11, 2010, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed into law a bill that lifts the statutes of limitations in both civil and criminal cases for victims of sexual abuse under the age of 16. While this is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t address the thousands of survivors who were abused prior to this bill becoming law. In the version that the Governor signed, there is a clause that states, “This subsection applies to any such action than one which would have been time barred on or before July 1, 2010.” That one sentence excludes all those who were abused when they were minors but could only come forward years later as adults.
This is an important point because anyone who has worked with survivors of sexual abuse realizes that the majority of those abuse as minors were unable to come forward in what the law considers a timely manner. The nature of the crime, the fact that the perpetrator is often well known and/or well-respected, and their own shame over the incident prevented them from coming forward sooner. Unfortunately, the new legislation doesn’t take this important aspect of abuse trauma into due consideration.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Florida Catholic Conference opposed the legislation. In doing so, the Conference issued the following statement: “it would create great uncertainty for any organization.” In my opinion, that’s pretty weak when you consider the permanent harm done to our children.
At the least, Florida’s children will be afforded the law’s protection going forward. There will be no civil or criminal statute of limitations for those coming forward reporting the crime of sexual abuse. That is a good step in the right direction. We need to do more but we’ll take this as a first step.