Survivors want no statute of limitations on rape

Published: May. 23, 2018 at 3:11 PM EDT|Updated: May. 23, 2018 at 5:07 PM EDT
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Nikki Albino said her teacher and resource officer at a Palm Beach County school sexually abused her when she was 12-years-old. She said she finally had the courage to come forward but when she filed an official police report she was shocked to hear what the investigating officer told her.

"The statute of limitations is up on this case," Albino recalled. "Because it was some 20 odd years ago, there's nothing he can do."

The teacher is still working in the school district and has been removed from the classroom, pending the outcome of the internal investigation.

For Albino, that's not enough.

"I'm hurt. I feel powerless," Albino said.

Attorney Michael Dolce, who is a survivor of sexual abuse himself, said suppressed memory is very common in sexual abuse cases, especially those involving children.

"The average delay in reporting is estimated at 15 years," Dolce said. Fifteen years. But when Albino's abuse happened, Florida gave the survivors only 4 years to come forward.

Danielle Sullivan learned that the hard way when she reported her sexual abuse 4 years and 43 days after it had happened.

"By the time I got around to actually reporting it, I was 43 days past the statute of limitations," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said she walked into a police station, ready to file charges, in 2014.

"It had taken so much courage to walk in there to begin with," Sullivan said. "To get over the feelings of humiliation and self-blame, and to walk in there and tell two male police officers what had happened, and the fear of them thinking that I was making things up."

Lui Damiani with the Victim Service Center of Central Florida said victim blaming is a big part of why survivors don't come forward.

"Some people think that they won't be believed, but there is guilt, there is shame," Damiani said.  "In all my time working here, I have zero examples of someone who cried wolf. Zero."

Sullivan left the police station that day in 2014, knowing her abuser was going to get away with it. Not because of a lack of evidence, but because she was 43 days too late to report it.

"It's hard when you know something to be true and no matter how hard you scream you can't make people do anything about it," Sullivan said.

Sullivan helped change that for other survivors.

Because of her story, the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases in Florida was doubled to eight years.

For many experts, that's not enough.

"There should be no statute of limitations," Damiani said.

Dolce agreed.

"We do have one particular crime in the state of Florida for which there is no statute of limitation and that's murder," Dolce said. "I think for any sex offense we should have no statute of limitations as well. Because at the end of the day, I can tell you that, I've been in recovery with multiple sex crime victims who have killed themselves. That's their death. I don't think there should be a statute of limitations that led to that."

Seventeen states have no statute of limitations at all.  Another seventeen states are giving the survivors more time to come forward than Florida does.

"It's sad to think that, if I had been in another state, that I would have had longer," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said she lives with the memories of her abuse every day.

"With rape, the victim stays alive to live the rest of their lives with this trauma and deadness in them," Sullivan said.

Since her abuser is still walking free, she is worried there might be future victims.

"Unfortunately, I believe that this person is still out there, doing this to other people," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said she has since heard from other women who were abused by the same man. The other victims that I know were past their statute of limitations as well," Sullivan said.

In Albino's case, a second victim contacted Contact 5 after our initial story about Albino aired.
Survivors of sexual abuse like Albino and Sullivan are asking for justice.

"That's why I think it should be unlimited," Sullivan said. "At least give the victim her day in court. Give them at least the opportunity for somebody to investigate it."

Scripps Only Content 2018