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

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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.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.