July 20, 2020

If you are interested in discussing any of the issues raised in this opinion piece, please contact us here or reach out to Michael directly at mdolce@cohenmilstein.com or 561.515.1400.

By Michael Dolce

July 2020 marks the tenth anniversary of Florida's repeal of all civil and criminal statutes of limitation for prosecution of cases involving child sexual battery. The repeal has opened courthouse doors so survivors can enter when they are sufficiently recovered mentally and emotionally to confront their abusers. A delayed report of child sex abuse to law enforcement no longer means officers have to wait for the reporting of a predator's next victim and abusers can now be brought to justice and exposed in our communities. Institutions that care for our children, from churches to schools to daycare centers, have more incentive to keep children safe because they are held accountable. And, the ticking of a clock reward is eliminated, mitigating intimidation tactics abusers use to silence their prey for years or even decades.

It is undeniable that statutes of limitation do nothing to protect children and show no respect for survivors. In Florida, empathy for survivors has created an understanding of why the injuries inflicted in a few moments can take many years to heal. There is acknowledgement of the flashbacks, the haunting body memories and the struggle to regain trust in humanity that keep survivors silent for years. We join survivors of yesterday's horrific abuses in their courageous efforts to make sure that today's children do not walk in their shoes.

It took six years to win this legislative fight in Florida. We fought the Roman Catholic Church's hierarchy, and the insurance industry that claimed sympathetic jury verdicts would bankrupt them. They claimed liability insurance premiums would skyrocket for any program involving children, forcing schools to shutter and recreation leagues to disband, as well as siphoning funds used for charitable programs. The ten years since have disproven these prophesies of doom.

In the past decade, Catholic charity work in Florida continues unabated and larger than ever. The year after the repeal, Catholic Charities of the Palm Beach Diocese reported providing services to some 9,000 people with a budget of over $5.8 million. Its most recent report for 2017 – 2018 shows it provided services to some 17,000 people with a budget of over $7 million. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami continues to provide eight major types of services in partnership with multiple public and private agencies with an annual budget of some $30 million. At least one Catholic diocesan-level foundation has tripled its charitable grants to schools, missions and other charitable purposes since the 2010 repeal. These charitable efforts remain vibrant not because of the repeal, but because the repeal has proven to be irrelevant to thwarting such missions.

The complete article can be accessed here.