New Florida law doubles statute of limitations for sexual battery victims

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Rape victims in Florida are now about to get more time to report their cases. Starting Wednesday, the statute of limitations for sexual battery will double.

Channel 9 reporter Michael Lopardi talked to a victim whose struggle led to a grass-roots effort for change.

"To know that so many victims' lives are going to be changed, it's overwhelming," supporter Danielle Sullivan said.

Sullivan helped write the mesasure. She was assaulted in 2010, and when she finally reported the incident to law enforcement, she was told the statute of limitations had passed by 43 days. She led the "43 Days Initiative" and took her case to Tallahassee.

"It's been a day-to-day healing and it continues to help me heal," Sullivan said.

The current law requires prosecution of the suspect to begin within four years of the crime. Now that will change to eight years. The new measure applies to cases with victims at least 16 years old. There are no limits for victims younger than that.

"There's so many other things that come into play that make it very difficult, and can often make the victim feel like she had a part in the assault," Sullivan said.

The measure is not retroactive. The director of the Victim Service Center said it's unclear if the change will lead to a spike in new reports.

"It gives more power to those victims to be empowered to be able to bring their story forward," Director Lui Damiani said.

The original proposal called for an increase to 10 years, but the House and Senate compromised on eight years. Sullivan said she's not done fighting, and, ideally wants to eliminate a statute of limitations for sexual battery cases.