Michael Dolce’s impassioned but barely audible appeal to lawmakers today reaped a preliminary success for the 40-year-old West Palm Beach lawyer.
Dolce’s tried but failed for years to get the legislature to do away with the statute of limitations in cases where a child under the age of 16 was sexually molested. The former legislative aide has a personal interest in seeing the law passed, one that he shared with a spellbound Senate Criminal Justice Committee this afternoon struggling to hear the soft-spoken Dolce’s testimony.
Dolce, an attorney, prayed silently before telling the committee that he was repeatedly raped as a 7-year-old child by a neighbor in his home state of Maryland. When he was finally able to talk about the vicious crime, the statute of limitations had passed and he was unable to press charges against his molestor.
Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Greenacres Democrat, is sponsoring a bill again (SB 870) this year that would do away with Florida’s current law giving victims of certain sex offenses, including “non-forcible rape” of children age 12 and older, until they are 21 to press charges. Lawsuits must be filed before the victim reaches age 26.
But up to 70 percent of child sexual-abuse cases aren’t reported until after the deadline, Dolce told The Palm Beach Post last year.
Dolce told the committee he still suffers after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on medical and psychological treatment while his molestor walks free.
“Today, he I am 40 years old. The pain does not go away,” he said.
The committee unanimously approved the measure which has two more stops before a full vote in the Senate. Its House companion has one committee vote left after three committees previously unanimously passed it.
Lawmakers have the power to repeal the statute of limitations by legislative grace, Dolce testified.
“I urge you to do it. I have faced Satan. He does not deserve legislative grace,” Dolce said.
Dolce launched a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to lift the statute of limitations on sex crimes in the event that the legislature again fails to act. He failed to gather the 700,000 signatures by February necessary to get the measure on this year’s ballot but is shooting for 2012.