Bill Allowing Young Victims To Secretly Record Sex Abusers Clears First Senate Panel

Mar 2, 2015

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Ft. Myers) speaking during a Senate hearing Monday.
Credit Florida Channel

A bill allowing young sexual abuse victims to secretly record their attackers to use as evidence in court cleared its first Senate hearing Monday.

After changing the bill Monday, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Fort Myers) says her measure now allows victims of sexual abuse under 18 to make secret recordings of their abusers. It also includes young victims of physical force or violence. Current Florida law requires two-party consent for any recordings.

Benacquisto says she got involved in this issue because of a particular case in her district involving an ice cream truck driver Richard McDade and his stepdaughter.

“A young girl was repeatedly victimized by her stepfather, brought the issue to the attention of her family, and was not believed, and made a recording of the stepfather admitting his guilt,” said Benacquisto. “That issue was brought to trial, he was convicted, and upon appeal, the conviction was overturned because the information was not admissible. We just seek to make this small, narrow change to make sure children have an additional voice when it comes to asking for help and stopping being victims.”

Sex abuse survivor and victims Advocate Lauren Book says the law needs to be changed to help victims like this girl who had the courage to come forward, though no one believed her.

“This young girl’s voice was silenced time after time,” said Book. “So, at her boyfriend’s urging, she created a recording device of her abuser in secret and turned it into police. McDade was arrested the very same day once police heard the recording—a clear admission of guilt that was eventually thrown out allowing a guilty man to walk free and a brave survivor to be denied justice. We cannot allow our children’s voices to be silenced.”

The measure, which passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously, has the backing of Attorney General Pam Bondi. Meanwhile, a similar measure is moving in the House that allows ALL sexual abuse victims to use secret recordings of their attackers as evidence in court.

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