‘Donna’s Law’ could open door to prosecution of sex crimes against kids

A new Florida law removes the statute of limitations for sexual battery of children below the age of 18 but applies only to offenses committed after its effective date, July 1.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 199, “Donna’s Law,” on Tuesday.

House Democrat Tracie Davis of Jacksonville, one of the measure’s cosponsors, issued a written statement:

“When I think of the many lives that this bill could impact in the future and the message that it will send to people who seek to hurt children in Florida, I cannot help but think of the lives it could have touched, had there been no statute of limitations on the prosecution of sexual battery against minors on the books,” she said.

“Finally, our most vulnerable will have the law on their side.”

The law is named after Donna Hedrick of Orlando, who as an adult accused a teacher of having raped her when she was 15 years old. By the time she made her report, the statute of limitations had expired.

A petition Hedrick circulated seeking repeal of the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors gathered 30,000 signatures. You can read an earlier Florida Phoenix report about the measure here.

Kim Porteous, president of the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women, helped fight for passage of the legislation. A survivor herself, she thanked victims for speaking up and thanked lawmakers for listening.

During the spring legislative session, Porteous said: “I am thankful that the Florida legislators have taken a big step to help send the message that Florida takes childhood sexual abuse seriously.”

She added, “I am grateful for the women who bravely shared their traumatic stories to protect other victims from a lifetime of [having] no way to receive justice.”