SWFL child sex assault survivor supports bill he says better protects young victims

A Southwest Florida man wants to achieve justice for victims of child sex crime victims. A new plan to get rid of the statute of limitations for children under 18 years old will be heard by a Florida Senate panel. The man we spoke to was molested at a Southwest Florida camp decades ago. He says the push for a change at the state level could’ve helped his healing process.

Aaron Averhart in south Fort Myers told us, by the time he learned about the statute of limitations, it was already too late for him to report the sexual abuse he had endured for years.

Averhart says a Florida bill would help children get closure sooner rather than later. Averhart was just 13-years-old when he says the sexual abuse and rape began by his camp counselor in Charlotte County.

MORE: HB 199: Sexual Battery Prosecution Time Limitation

“There’s just an immense amount of shame that comes with it,” Averhart said.

It was years later when he built up the courage to tell someone about what happened. By then, the statute of limitations prevented his attacker from facing any charges.

“It would have provided a sense of closure earlier on in my life as opposed to waiting until after he was dead,” Averhart said.

Florida lawmakers are now trying to throw the statute of limitations out the window for victims of sexual abuse under the age of 18.

“They’re not put in place to protect the victim,” Averhart said. “They’re put in place to protect the predator.”

Experts at the Abuse Counseling & Treatment center (ACT) told us it’s unfortunately very common for child sex abuse victims to never speak about what happened.

“By the time I had the mental capacity and mental wherewithal to realize the damage it had done, my life, it was just, it was already over,” Averhart said.

The current statute of limitations depends on the age of the child when the crime was committed, the severity of the assault and the victim’s age when assault is reported to authorities.

If this new bill is passed into law, it would apply to any crimes committed on or after July 1, 2020.

And, even if it takes years to do so, Averhart hopes other victims will be able to get justice.

“A statute of limitations just removes any kind of power you have as a survivor, as a victim,” Averhart said.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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