TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Legislation that would create exception to “general time limitations” so young victims of sexual abuse may hold their attackers accountable years after the abuse passed unanimously in the Florida House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Wednesday.
The bill, which has been sponsored in both the House and Senate, has been designated “Donna’s Law” in the House after Orlando resident Donna Hedrick, a victim of alleged sexual abuse by a former high school teacher in the early 1970s.
News 6 has previously reported on Hedrick’s story of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of her local high school choral director, something she kept to herself for more than 40 years.
Hedrick said she joined two other students to meet with the teacher about the alleged abuse at a local restaurant.
“He admitted everything,” she told News 6. “He told me he was in a bad marriage. That was his excuse.”
Hedrick said the abuse occurred two weeks after her 15th birthday and said there are at least a dozen other victims.
That teacher is receiving a pension, according to Republican State Rep. Scott Plakon.
Under current law, a victim age 16 or older must report a sexual assault within 72 hours or face “restrictive statute of limitations.”
HB 199 and SB 170 would end the deadline for all minors under the age of 18 who have been victimized by sexual abuse.
State Sen. Linda Stewart sponsored a measure to eliminate that time restriction in 2018 but was unable to get support on the House side.
This year appears to be different given the momentum of the Me Too Movement and the support of House co-sponsors Plakon and Democratic Rep. Tracie Davis.
Stewart told News 6 she is very encouraged by the support on both sides of the aisle.
“After the vote today, I am feeling more confident that this bill will move through the House and Senate and become law,"she said. "I want to thank the chair of the committee and its members for taking this important first step towards passing this bill.”
The bill has several more sub-committee votes in the House and Senate but all signs point to its passing.
If approved, the law would go into effect July 1.