’Donna’s Law’ passes Florida Legislature, heads to governor’s desk

Legislation eliminates statute of limitations for sexual assault against minors

Donna Hedrick, at 15, in 1971.

ORLANDO, Fla. – A piece of legislation aimed at eliminating the statute of limitations for sexual assault against minors has passed Florida’s Legislature and is on its way to the governor’s desk.

The bill, nicknamed “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, passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, according to a news release.

Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando), the bill’s Senate sponsor called its passage a win for victims of abuse.

“This is a major win for survivors and shows the true power of speaking out and sharing your story. This is proof that the Florida Legislature hears your voices, and that change is made by people who show the strength to come forward and fight to protect victims,” Stewart said.

Under current law, a victim age 16 or older must report a sexual assault within 72 hours or face “restrictive statute of limitations.”

CS/HB 199, co-sponsored by in the House by Rep. Tracie Davis (D-Jacksonville) and Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood), and CS/SB 170 end the deadline for everyone under the age of 18 who has been victimized by sexual abuse.

Hedrick, the inspiration behind the legislation, said she was abused by her high school choral director two weeks after her 15th birthday, something she kept to herself for more than 40 years.

When she finally shared her story, Hedrick was barred from seeking justice due to the deadline. According to Hedrick, there are at least five other victims.

Stewart said now is the time to abolish that deadline and is proud to be a part of legislation that would.

“Over the years, time limitations have continued to expand for victims, but the time has finally come for them to be removed altogether for minors. This is just the right thing to do, and I thank my colleagues in both chambers for listening to the experiences and being a part of this positive change for the future,” Stewart said.

Donna’s Law is now pending the governor’s review.