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'We live with this the rest of our life’: Advocates want Florida to drop statute of limitations for sex assaults

This week, advocates in Tallahassee are lobbying for legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations entirely for serious sexual assaults.

TAMPA, Fla. — Rena Romano held her secret in for decades.

As a child, she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her brother. As an adult, she says she was raped by a co-worker in her own home.

She didn’t tell anyone for 14 years.

“I was so full of shame and pain of what my perpetrators did to me,” she said. “I didn’t cause this I didn’t commit these crimes.”

Romano, who has written a book, given TEDx Talks and even appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009, has spent the better part of the past decade explaining why so many victims—including herself—often wait so long to come forward after being sexually assaulted.

RELATED: #WhyIDidntReport: Tampa author, sex assault survivor says accusers deserve benefit of the doubt

It’s why she feels so strongly about getting rid of the statute of limitations for sexual assaults.

“There’s a statute of limitations legally for the perpetrator but for the victim, we have no statute of limitations,” Romano said. “We live with this for the rest of our life.”

The current statute of limitations in Florida is somewhat complicated, ranging between four to eight years, depending on various factors like the age of the victim and whether they were injured.

RELATED: What are the statutes of limitation for sex crimes?

This week, advocates with the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN, are in Tallahassee lobbying for legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations entirely for serious sexual assaults and allow for prosecutions years, or even decades, after the crime is committed.

At least 18 states, including the District of Columbia, have reformed statute of limitation laws, according to ChildUSA.org. Many now have no limit for filing charges.

On the heels of #MeToo and other high-profile cases involving the Catholic church, the Boy Scouts, and celebrities like Billy Cosby, Romano says the time is now.

"I think lawmakers are finally seeing how prevalent this is,” she said. “It's an epidemic."

RELATED: Florida Lawmaker proposes removal of the statute of limitations on rape in new bill

Similar varying measures were introduced by state lawmakers during previous sessions but none had made it beyond committees.

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