Florida lawmakers vote to close sexual assault ‘loophole’

State Sen. Linda Stewart’s SB 868 exposes escape clause for rape

On Monday, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee took the first step to eliminate language in the current sexual battery statute 794.001 that provides what critics called a loophole for sexual attacks against intoxicated men and women.

The committee voted to approve a measure that would edit the words “administered without his or her consent” from the current law.

State Senator Linda Stewart (D) told judiciary committee members offenders should not have an escape clause if they did not administer the drugs or alcohol to their victim.

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“The offenders that take advantage of someone’s incapacitation, whether they caused it or not, should be held accountable, " Stewart said.

Stewart, a long-time champion of women’s rights, was first made aware of the legal issue by representatives of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, also known as RAINN.

Both Stewart and State Rep. Emily Slosberg-King have submitted identical legislation SB 868 and HB 525 respectively to change the law.

“When we hear it we change it,” Stewart said.

Stewart is confident that the measure will make it through committees and to the Senate floor for approval.

Katrina Duesterhaus, a survivor of what she called “alcohol facilitated sexual assault” has launched a social media page to build awareness of the current law.

Duesterhaus said she was sexually assaulted by five men when she was just 14. The assault took place in California.

She said under current Florida law those men would not be held accountable because she knowingly drank.

“Just because I had voluntarily taken some shots that night does not mean what happened wasn’t rape,” Duesterhaus told News 6. “It doesn’t make any sense that the intoxication of the victim whether it was voluntary or involuntary has any effect on the outcome of the crime.”

Duesterhaus is also a member of RAINN’s Speakers Bureau along with sexual assault teams in three Florida counties.

“This issue to me is non-partisan,” Dusterhaus said. “I don’t see why we shouldn’t have unanimous support across the board in every single committee for it.”

The bill will go to the criminal committee first and, if approved, to the Senate rules committee. Committee hearings are expected to be announced next week.

Slosberg-King’s bill has not been scheduled for House committee hearings yet.

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.