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About time: New law allows child vicitms to audio record sexual molesters

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Like most parents, when I hear the tinkling music of an ice cream truck, I know what my future holds: rummaging in my pocket for some singles and spare change, a little begging and pleading from my baby girl, followed by big smiles, sticky hands and promises that we won’t tell mom we ate ice cream an hour before dinner. (I’m told by Lauren Book this is a “safe secret.”)

But this session was a painful reminder to Michelle and I that times certainly have changed. That danger may be lurking around any corner, or driving down any street. The simple summer-time innocence of an ice cream truck is no longer promised.

Yesterday, ice cream truck driver and Lee County resident Richard McDade was acquitted of child molestation charges and is now walking free.

But the last time McDade appeared in front of a judge and jury, he was found guilty of molesting his step-daughter for years and handed two life sentences.

What changed?

A damning audio tape created by McDade’s victim (without his knowledge) was not allowed as evidence in the second trial, because the Supreme Court ruled that its introduction the first time around had violated the state’s private recording laws.

Today, Florida has righted that wrong with Gov.  Rick Scott’s signing of HB 7001, which crafts an exemption to the state’s existing private recording law for child victims of sexual assault, into law. This new law will give kids who are victims of this unthinkable abuse the ability to use whatever recording devices they have handy – a cell phone, an mp3 player; the kinds of digital devices kids are glued to – to create a recording substantiating their claims. Essentially, the law has caught up with technology.

Child advocate Lauren Book, who understands all too well the barriers children face when trying to disclose abuse, says this is a big step forward for Florida.

“It takes tremendous courage for a child to step forward and great resourcefulness to capture a conversation that proves his or her story,” says Book. “Because many young victims feel isolated and alone, and are afraid of not being believed, this step forward is critical for Florida’s children to be both heard and helped. It gives young people the power to seek justice, and to be the hero in their own story, even when others turn a blind eye.

“Without this critical piece of evidence to corroborate children’s allegations, too many predators walk free. Let’s not forget: The only difference between McDade serving a life sentence in prison and a lifetime ability to victimize children was one audio file.”

Book went on to praise Governor Scott and the members of the Florida Legislature for helping child sexual abuse victims bring their abusers to justice and for giving children a voice in a statement released shortly after HB 7001 was signed into law.

As a parent, I share her thanks.

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