By Spencer T. Kuvin
Rape victim Danielle Sullivan’s efforts have come to fruition with
the passing of Florida’s new “43 Days Initiative Act.”
This new bill, signed into law by Governor Scott and in effect as of July
1st, 2015, doubles the statute of limitations allowed for filing charges of
sexual battery, commonly known as “rape”.
Sullivan was the victim of rape, but because Florida’s previous law
required the victim to report the incident to authorities within four
years of the crime, her attacker walked away free from prosecution. That’s
because Sullivan was a mere 43 days late in reporting this horrific crime
committed against her.
This new law extends the statute of limitations for rape from four to eight
years. It also takes away any statute of limitations for victims younger
than 16 years old. Prior to this extension, Florida was one of only three
other states that had three or four year limitations on reporting rape
and other sexual crimes to the propert authorities for prosecution.
According to a 2000 National Crime Victimization Survey, youths aged 12-17
are two to three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than adults.
In fact, rape, according to the National Victim Center, is “the
most underreported violent crime in America.” In a large national
survey of American women, only 16% of the rapes (approximately one out
of every six) had ever been reported to the police.
Many issues can make it difficult for victims of sexual assault to report
these types of crimes, even after many years have passed since the attack.
Some of the issues that can effect a victim’s timely reporting include
embarrassment, self-blaming and self-shaming, fear of reciprocity from
an attacker, or worry that the victim will not be believed. In totality,
these effects are called Rape Trauma Syndrome, an established and medically
accepted mental health condition.
I’ve personally prosecuted many of these types of crimes in civil
court during my career as a personal injury lawyer. Specifically, I have
represented victims of sexual battery against a number of powerful and
famous men. My experience has taught me that attackers will commonly use
their power and influence to scare their victims into silence, especially
the younger female victims. Frequently it is only after the victim grows
up and realizes how this tragedy has truly scarred her life, that she
summons the courage to come forward and seek justice.
By amending this law to extend the criminal statute of limitations, the
legislature has provided the flexibility in reporting that victims of
sexual battery obviously need to do their part in helping to put sexual
predators behind bars, where they belong.
The new law also amends the statute of limitations for a civil lawsuit
against a sexual abuser. If the victim is over the age of 18, she has
seven years to file a lawsuit. However, if the victim is a dependent of
the abuser (an underage daughter, for example), she has an additional
four years from the time she severs that dependent relationship, as well
as four years from the discovery of injury.
At our law firm, we continue to work on behalf of victims of sexual assault
and sexual battery as a legal advocate for their rights in the criminal
and civil justice systems. We guide our clients through every step of
this difficult, often emotional process. Our goal is to obtain a financial
recovery against the Defendant which, hopefully, helps to validate the
emotional trauma a victim has endured, as well as pay for future medical
and psychological treatment.
If you or someone you know or love has been the victim of sexual assault,
contact our office today at 561-697-4440 to find out if we may be able
to help you recover. The call is free and confidential.