Collier young woman behind ‘Serena’s Law’ shares her story to protect kids from abuse
The Florida Legislature passed a new law called “Serena’s Law,” which is named after a Collier County woman determined to make sure other children don’t endure the horrors she did as a child.
“I’m a sexual abuse survivor through the ages of 11 to 14,” said Serena Parisi. “I was being sexually abused by an adult male in my life who I trusted and had access to me.”
Serena told her mother, Jennifer, about the abuse when she was 17 years old.
“It was heart-wrenching,” explained Jennifer Parisi. “And you can’t help but think why did this happen to her? A lot of sleepless nights thinking, why is this happening to her, why is this happening to our family?”
After the abuse was reported, Serena and her mother found out her abuser was volunteering at child centric organizations throughout Southwest Florida. Turns out, background checks never showed the lifetime sexual abuse restraining order a judge granted in court.
“It was really devastating to me because my perpetrator was working with at risk children, those children are groomable.” Serena said.
Serena’s abuser was never criminally charged. A loophole in Florida’s public records law, meant to protect survivors of sexual abuse, also shielded the identity of abusers.
“People try to distance themselves from abuse, this doesn’t happen in this type of zip code, this type of neighborhood, or to people like us,” Serena explained. “And if we ever came across this type of predator, we would be able to identify him.”
Serena and her mother knew they needed to do something — to protect the children in our community — so they went to Tallahassee. Serena told her story to state lawmakers, who had no idea about the loophole or the lack of information uncovered in background checks.
The duo came up with “Serena’s Law,” which ensures public records laws expose offenders’ identities, rather than shield them in abuse documents.
After three years of fighting, the law passed unanimously. Moving forward, a predator’s sexual abuse restraining order will show up during a background check.
The law goes into effect June 1, 2021.
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