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Message from the State Attorney

Photo: Katherine Fernandez Rundle Headshot 2

Katherine Fernandez Rundle
State Attorney

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Dear Friend,


As many of you may know, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The SAO Sexual Battery Unit (SBU), which is housed in the in the Orlowitz-Lee Children’s Advocacy Center (aka Kristi House), is comprised of senior prosecutors, trial coordinators, victim/witness counselors, paralegals, and support staff. The Children and Special Needs Unit (CSNU) also is in Kristi House and assists law enforcement and the SBU in investigating allegations of child abuse, both sexual and physical, by conducting interviews of young children. CSNU consists of forensic interviewers, intake clerks and a paralegal who are specialized in dealing with very young victims.


Together, they handle our complex sexual battery and lewd and lascivious cases involving minors under 12, serial rapists, “cold” rape cases solved by the evolution of DNA, severe child abuse cases, and long-term sexual abuse of minors in a familial setting. These cases can be very challenging. Child victims often suffer severe trauma, and many do not report their victimization for days, months, or even years.


SBU understands the central role victims play in the justice system and team members consider their needs throughout this difficult process. They are very sensitive to the additional trauma the court system can place on victims and employ a victim-centered approach when handling cases. SBU attorneys and staff work closely with experts who are trained to recognize signs of neurotrauma.


Our trauma-centered approach is critical in sexual battery cases as well as in Human Trafficking cases, particularly those involving minor victims. We see that the stress of giving depositions for these victims who have been brutalized repeatedly creates additional trauma as it forces them to relive the most painful and humiliating experiences of their lives.


If a child is too traumatized to testify, we can lose the ability to prosecute that child’s exploiter. In Florida, the law permits defense attorneys to depose child victims in felony cases whenever they choose. During the past few years, I have advocated for legislative change that would require defense attorneys to obtain court approval before putting child victims through this extremely stressful process. Last year, though our bill passed the Florida Senate unanimously, it did not even get to the floor of the Florida House of Representatives for a vote. This year, our bills appear to be progressing well, but we can’t be overconfident, and we really need your help.


I urge you to contact your Florida legislators to let them know you want to see stronger protection for children from criminal discovery depositions and ask them to support House Bill 667 and Senate Bill 510. Use your voice to protect our children and help them find justice and healing.


Thank you and God Bless,




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