sexual violence

There will soon be a new tool available to parents and caregivers of sexually abused kids.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed four sex offender bills into law Tuesday during a public ceremony at the Capitol.  The event brought together a number of Republican lawmakers to show off the first bills passed by the Legislature.

Flanked by lawmakers, sheriffs and victims’ advocates, Scott said the package of bills will make the state safer.

Head Start, open enrollment, and the Florida State Legislature are in the headlines today.

TALLAHASSEE (The News Service of Florida) — A Florida Senate panel on Monday unanimously passed three bills dealing with sexually violent predators and sexual crimes against children — the first in a series of measures expected to unfold across four committees and both legislative chambers this week.

With the results of the investigation into allegations of sexual battery against Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston this afternoon, Mother Jones took a look at sexual assault by college football players since the 1970's.

Welcome to WJCT First Read, your daily weekday morning round-up of stories from the First Coast, around Florida, and across the country. We'll also preview some of WJCT's upcoming news programming.

First phase of Dozier school excavation complete: Researchers from the University of South Florida completed the preliminary dig at the site of the former Dozier School for Boys, finding two skeletons.

A legislative hearing is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at Jacksonville City Hall on state laws related to sex offenders. The hearing is open to the public and experts, including officials representing state law enforcement and child services agencies, will be in attendance.

The meeting comes only a few months after the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in Jacksonville. 

Prosecutors say Donald James Smith, a 56-year-old sex offender who had been released from jail only about a month before he allegedly killed Perrywinkle, has a long history of preying on young girls.  

Smith pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, sexual battery and murder. In July, State Attorney Angela Corey said she would seek the death penalty in the case.

Tomorrow's hearing is sponsored by Florida State Representative Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, and it comes as an online petition to enact "Cherish's Law" has garnered over 2,200 signatures.

The petition was created by a group called "Justice For Cherish" formed, according to their Facebook page, in August.

While the group's Facebook page and petition site offer few details on what changes they would propose, they do appear to advocate longer prison sentences for repeat sexual offenders.

"How many more children do we have to lose before you keep the repeat offenders locked up for the rest of their lives?" the petition asks. "The only reform for a repeat predator is life."

What new laws or changes to existing laws would you propose to prevent sexual assault? Tell us on our Facebook page or on Twitter @WJCTJax.

Welcome to WJCT First Read, your daily weekday morning round-up of stories from the First Coast, around Florida, and across the country.

Kevin Meerschaert

At a budget hearing Thursday, the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee restored funding for the city's Sexual Assault Response Center (SARC).

Committee members were displeased when it was revealed that while funding for the center had been eliminated, state reimbursements to the city for conducting medical and forensic exams of victims remained in the revenue column.

There was a great deal of confusion during the hearing. City officials told the committee they believed the services provided at SARC could be handled at UF Health Jacksonville.

April is the "awareness month" for a lot of things. Autism, jazz appreciation, even Confederate history (only in the Southern states, of course.)

But April also marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the U.S., and since it's estimated 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, awareness is key.

We highlighted the topic on First Coast Connect by speaking with UNF criminology professor and author Dr. Jennifer Wesely.