Gails Law-The Orlando Times
“Gail’s Law” – HB 673: Surviving The Inconceivable
BY DR. BARBARA J. MCLEAN-SMITH
Photo Cutline: Gail F. Gardner
ORLANDO - Time, patience, and perseverance have brought a new law to the state of Florida. “Gail’s Law” introduced and passed, in both, the House (Representative Emily Slosberg D-Boca Raton) and Senate (Senator Linda Stewart D-Orlando) of Florida’s State Government. “Gail’s Law” has brought a long-awaited law to initiate and process the timely utilization of sexual assault evidence in the identification and capture of sexual assault perpetrators.
Gail F. Gardner had been waiting for 32 years to learn of the status of her case and whereabouts of the “rape kit” that had been collected on the night of her sexual assault in 1988. Ms. Gardner had submitted proof to a very humiliating and “invasive forensic examination using items by medical personnel for gathering and preserving physical evidence following an allegation of sexual assault.”
Gardner and her young son relocated from New York to Orlando, now, some 42 years ago. She and her son were coming home from a church event to a dark house. As a result of a hardship at the time, they had to enter and navigate the house without electric utilities. Once in bed for the night, Ms. Gardner was surprised and assaulted by an intruder and rapist. Her son was laying asleep next to her. The rapist seeing the child, dragged her to another room and raped her at knifepoint; she bore a facial scar for a long time. After the assault, the assailant threatened her and attempted to rob the house. Soon realizing there were no lights, he fled. This allowed Ms. Gardner to quickly gather her son and run to a neighbor where she called the police.
Ms. Gardner did not permit that horrific crime to define her. She became an educator within the Orange County Public Schools at Jones High School as an English teacher. She continued her education and attained two master’s degrees, one in English Education and one in Pastoral Counseling. Ms. Gardener is board certified in pastoral counseling. She wanted to bridge the gap from pastoral counseling to counseling those who have been sexually abused. Ms. Gardner also provides bereavement counseling. Ms. Gardner organized a non-profit organization and in 2007 wrote and had published, a book, titled “Woman to Woman Gleaning Inspirational Insight from Our Biblical Mothers”. When asked where she gets her determination and stamina, she replied with Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” She also stated that “I believe that discourse is the beginning of healing; it took me from 1988 until 2016 before I could sleep in the dark”. Women must talk about the issues in their lives that have had negative influences over them spiritually, emotionally, and physically. We no longer have to hold on to the old adage: “what goes on in this house stays in this house”. We must talk, we must report to the police, we must seek justice especially if a crime has been committed.
A couple of years back, in November 2019, Ms. Gardner walked into the Orlando Police Department’s new building to inquire about her case. She was happily surprised that they still had her case and was able to provide her with an update. She adamantly states that “Whenever you have a case and/or any wrong done to you, you must show up! The first thing she learned was that the rapist had been in prison since the mid 90’s. Secondly, she learned his name,
and that he had been tagged as “The Malibu Rapist”. The rapist had been charged with many similar cases as hers; some then, considered “cold cases”. Ms. Gardner’s case had laid stagnant for 30 years.
Ms. Gardner continuously advocated for a system that would use collected rape kits to help keep sexual assault survivors with updates on the statuses of their cases. “Gail’s Law” mandates a timely tracking system for sexual assault kits equipped with a unique barcode that may be used by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the survivors to access digital status updates.
“Gail’s Law” is a result of Ms. Gardner’s patience and perseverance “for such a time as this”. In two weeks, early August 2021, Ms. Gardner will “go before the State Attorney and will be allowed to face her attacker”. Her son, on the other hand, “an adult with standards” does not want to see the assailant because he does not know what his response would be…but goes on to say that he would like to ask the rapist one question: “What were your mommy issues that made you attack my mommy?”
Ms. Gardner states for the record “I am proud to have this bill named after me and to know that it will bring information and answers to sexual assault survivors, like me. I waited 32 fear and anxiety filled years to hear anything about my kit and my case, and I know others are experiencing that tragedy right now. My heart aches for therm. Gail’s Law will help fix the problem and bring some healing to survivors who deserve no less. Now, I’m satisfied but let’s look forward to a day when a “Rape Kit Tracking System” will no longer be needed.”
Ms. Gardner is also known as Elder Gail Frances Gardner, speaker, bible scholar, author, and workshop facilitator to women ministries, to name a few. Elder Gardner founded and currently hosts a podcast named A.V.O.I.C.E. an acronym for Awareness. Vision. Optimism. Compassion. and Empowerment. Each of these precepts is discussed in order to lead survivors of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and other traumatic life events to a place of healing. “Now a thriver, Elder Gardner is determined to advocate, educate, empower and inspire other women and their supporters to overcome and to thrive as well. You may listen to Elder Gardner’s Podcast from your Podcast Provider, and you may also visit her website at www.stillthekingsdaughter.com
Elder Gardner is a member of The Experience Christian Center under the leadership of Bishop Derrick McRae and Lady Taja McRae. What keeps Elder Gardner grounded is her belief in God and the scriptures; one of which is found in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Look for more to come from Elder Gail Frances Gardner, she’s no way tired yet.