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Senators Want To Extend Statute Of Limitations For Rape, But Not As Far As House

Danielle Sullivan
The Florida Channel

Florida appears primed to extend the statute of limitations for rape charges.  The proposal is headed for the Senate floor, less than a week after passing the House unanimously.

In Florida, the statute of limitations for rape victims is four years, but state lawmakers are working to push that deadline back.  Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) is pushing the measure in the Senate.

“Unfortunately, we have one of the lowest statute of limitations on sex crimes in Florida, particularly rape,” Soto says, “and so currently its four years and the bill would increase it to six years.”

And he’s not kidding.  Danielle Sullivan of the 43 Day Initiative has been the driving force behind Soto’s proposal and a similar one in the House.  She explains Florida is an outlier. 

“I quickly learned that Florida ranked 48th out of 50 states in the country in length statute of limitations on sexual battery at only four years,” Sullivan says. 

“19 states have no statute of limitations at all—13 states have 10 years or more,” Sullivan goes on.  “These appalling statistics were my call to action and I haven’t stopped building the 43 Day Initiative since.”

Sullivan is herself a rape survivor, and the 43 days refers to the time beyond Florida’s statute of limitations she needed before coming forward to press charges against her assailant.  She explains in 2010 she was sexually assaulted by someone she knew while traveling for work.  Sullivan says nearly three quarters of rapes involve an aggressor the victim knows, and for her the social proximity made recovery difficult.

“Post-traumatic disorder shuts down the brain, as a protective mechanism and we numb ourselves to the outside world, there is fear and confusion not knowing what to do or who to trust.”

But Sullivan says the Senate measure doesn’t go far enough. 

“My hope is that this bill can find its way back to the originally filed 10 years statute of limitation as proposed, not the six years as amended,” Sullivan says.  “I believe that there are citizens of Florida that need the additional time to heal and seek justice.”

The House has already passed its version of the bill and it did so unanimously.  That chamber stuck with the 10 year statute of limitations.  Soto says he wants to push the deadline further than six years, too. 

“On the floor you’ll be likely seeing an amendment to potentially put it to eight years,” Soto told senators on the Fiscal Policy Committee Wednesday.

Soto put forward the amendment dropping the deadline from 10 to six years, but he says he did so based on input from other senators, and maybe he went too far.

“I will allow the will of the Senate on the floor to determine whether it should be six years, or whether it should be eight years, and then we’ll negotiate with our House partners over this,” Soto says.

The measure passed committee unanimously, and it’s now on its way to the Senate floor.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.