ME TOO NO MORE

Adam Hattersley was the first candidate to present a legislative plan to address the many issues arising out of the national #MeToo conversation. Simply put, he wants to make the arrest and prosecution of rapists a priority, while at the same time, providing proven, victim-centric investigative tools to law enforcement. Here is the complete text of the speech in which he launched these ideas:

ME TOO NO MORE

Good morning and thank you all for coming out today,

There are moments in American history which transcend our national conversations and political discourse and offer us the ability to reveal truth.

Some of those truths, however, have been hard to face and even more difficult to act upon. We experienced it in the early 1900s with women’s suffrage, we experienced it in the 1960s with the civil rights movement and we experienced it yet again when our nation accepted same-sex marriage as the law of the land. In those moments, we looked inward and recognized our faults and our mistakes and we stepped up and said, “This is wrong. This is unjust. This is un-American,” and we made a choice to do better, to seek stronger justice for Americans who were suffering or marginalized.

I am convinced that today we are experiencing one of those moments. For the last few years, we have been ensconced in a conversation about misogyny, consent and rape culture. We have hash-tagged our beliefs, from Me Too to Why I Didn’t Report, with myriad other rallying cries in between. We have attempted to have a credible and meaningful conversation about the silent scourge of sex crimes that has poisoned the lives of millions of women, and not an insignificant number of men. But every time we feel we’ve gained some new ground, some new insight, we are faced with proceedings like that in Washington DC that endorse and condone behavior that is cruel and criminal.

Well, Washington can do what Washington wants, but in Florida, that ends today.

Today, in the second half of the second decade of the 21st century, we live in a country in which nearly 1 out of every 5 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives — and barely 6 out of every 1,000 suspected rapists will ever see the inside of a prison cell. Some research has shown that upwards of 9 out of every 10 sexual assaults go unreported, and in 8 out of 10 cases, the victims of sexual assault know their assailants. Suffice it to say, our leaders have been doing an inexcusably atrocious job of putting actual criminals in prison.

These are daunting, terrifying numbers. That being said, pursuing solutions to these problems aggressively, thoughtfully and relentlessly is the only means we have to stem the tide of sexual violence that has scarred our generation, and threatens to scar the next.

We are also aware of the toxic nature of these crimes, and the copious amounts of time it sometimes takes survivors to speak up about those crimes. Survivors and law enforcement, scientists and researchers, as well as the vast majority of survivor advocates all agree that the effects of sexual assault last not for days, but for lifetimes.

It is time for us to stand up and say NO MORE. Not. On. Our Watch.

So today, I am announcing, alongside some of my valued colleagues in the Democratic Party, the concept for a broad legislative initiative to send the message — with ONE voice — that Floridians will no longer be silent. Instead, we will lead, and master this moment with decisive action. If elected, I will work with my colleagues cooperatively to craft the plan in more detail, but today we will start with the basics.

Our legislative package — called Me Too No More — has three parts designed to eliminate obstacles to prosecution, provide law enforcement the best tools for our fight and fast-track much-needed evidence in ongoing prosecutions.

The first part is simple and obvious, and it is a step that has been taken by 20 other states — Me Too No More will eliminate any future statutes of limitations for all sex crimes in the state of Florida. For far too long, Florida’s sexual assault survivors have lived with the crushing reality that the criminal justice system was closed to them. By eliminating these ridiculous restrictions for the next generation, we will open a door for survivors that will lead to closing the door on serial rapists who continue to offend.

The second part is critical to give law enforcement better tools and training with which to arrest and prosecute sex criminals. Over the past few years, law enforcement agencies have begun adopting the game-changing investigative protocol known as FETI — the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview. This technique, developed for the US Army by one of its sex crime investigators, is a dramatic paradigm shift that teaches investigators the science of trauma, and its effects on the brain and victim responses. It eliminates the traditional and unconscionable interrogation of the victim, and replaces it with a victim-centric approach that enables them to piece together the facts of their attack without shame or humiliation. It also helps investigators piece together better narratives that can be used as compelling and convincing testimony in court. And for the naysayers who seem convinced that every rape report could be a false accusation, this scientifically-proven technique is far more effective in revealing false accusations than browbeating someone who has just suffered a life-altering trauma.

The third part of ME TOO NO MORE will find innovative ways to use public/private partnerships to fund the testing of the thousands of rape kits that have clogged our justice system and hinder prosecutions. While the FDLE’s efforts to take care of the more than 8,600 kit backlog have been admirable — leaving only 2,000 backlogged kits to be tested — as of last January, 4,000 NEW kits had been entered into the system. FDLE reports it is testing 99.9 percent of new kits within the four months allowed by law and many much quicker, but we can still do better. (Take a beat) Best efforts aside, it’s repugnant to think that Florida’s sexual predators are more diligent than our criminal justice system. We need laws and funding that outpace the actions of sex criminals, so we can stop playing catch-up and start simply catching them and putting them behind bars.

When my team and I first began discussing this issue, I wrongly assumed that there must be a reason why others have failed to enact these basic, simple and obvious measures before. When I looked at existing Statutes of Limitations on the books in Florida, and I saw so many different classifications for sex crimes and different Statutes of Limitations for them, it hit me. In Florida, our law books actually rank sex crimes to determine how long someone can report them, as if there is any kind of sex crime that is better than another sex crime. The absurdity of rating sex crimes on a sliding scale made me sick to my stomach. And I began to realize that there is absolutely no element of this issue that isn’t fundamentally heinous. Then I dug into the statistics. Of course, the 1 out of 5 women being raped shook me, and then I looked further and saw that 4 in 10 Florida women have been victimized by sexual violence other than rape.

I didn’t know that, because we don’t talk about these numbers. We don’t talk about this issue. And the women who know the most about it, the survivors, can’t talk about it, for the most part. And then I understood, it’s the silence — which is understandable — combined with our ignorance of the subject matter —  that has led us to the status quo.

I am sure that skeptics will claim that we can’t afford to take these measures. But make no mistake — as much as sex crimes are a plague on our state, changing the lives of their victims forever, it is also an economic and business issue.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a study just last year in which it revealed the estimated lifetime cost of rape was $122,461 per victim, or a population economic burden of nearly $3.1 trillion over victims’ lifetimes, based on data indicating that 25 million U.S. adults have been raped. Government sources pay an estimated $1 trillion of that lifetime economic burden.

One footnote — the average cost of a single FETI training session for a law enforcement agency is about $5,000.

My point is this — to many who have been following the Kavanaugh confirmation process, this nonsense isn’t new. Regardless of how you feel about it, the fate of women’s rights is hanging in the balance. The issues are serious, the stakes are high, but our resolve is greater because it has been seasoned by decades of toxic misogyny.

I am sure I will be asked why isn’t a woman standing here proposing these ideas and speaking out. The answer is simple — they have, for decades. This is not my bandwagon. I am simply joining the millions of women and thousands of women lawmakers, activists, advocates and public leaders who have been courageously fighting — often at their own peril — for stronger laws and enforcement efforts.

But I am not here to rally women, because they don’t need me to do that. They have been rallying around this issue since before I was born. I am here to rally men to join them as I am doing. It is our responsibility to be their allies and their advocates. As a man, I cannot speak FOR women, because I cannot possibly understand their journeys. I do not have a frame of reference for the fear, humiliation, pain and suffering that they have been made to feel by the pervasive rape culture that acts as a petri dish to cultivate sexual predators and provide them a welcome environment in which to thrive.

I, like the majority of men, have never been a victim of sexual violence, so I am unable to feel this fight as deeply as women do. But while I cannot speak FOR women, I can speak UP, and do what I can to add my voice to theirs and help them transform their pleas for change into action.

I welcome my Democratic colleagues here with me today, and I issue a challenge to Florida Republicans to suppress their partisan reflexes and join us in an effort to bring Florida into the 21st Century when it comes to how it deals with sex crimes and sex criminals.

Together, we can and we will make ME TOO NO MORE the LAW, and in doing so, set the stage for a more effective and hopefully decisive battle against evil.

Thank you.