Colorado lawmakers are debating once again whether new and future child sexual abuse victims will be given unlimited time to prosecute abusers after a similar effort failed last year due to an internal rift among supporters of the policy change.
Senate Bill 73 It overcame the first hurdle on Wednesday, with the consensus of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Child sexual abuse victims only have six years after they turn 18 to prosecute their abusers. The bipartisan legislation would remove this restriction. This measure will apply to people who have experienced abuse after January 1, 2022, as well as to those still within the statute of limitations by that date.
The accompanying measure, Senate Bill 88, seeks to give former child sexual abuse victims an opportunity to prosecute their abusers and institutions that failed to intervene.
“Colorado is way behind in reforming the Child Sexual Abuse Survivors’ Restriction Act,” said the senator Jesse Danielson, Wheat Ridge Democrat and lead sponsor of the measures. “These laws are the result of the decades-long struggle to achieve some healing and justice for the survivor community. Time to get it done. ”
Jill Brugden testified on Wednesday that she was 12 years old when she was abused by a Colorado teacher who was aware of the civil statute of limitations. He threatened her with “keeping her mouth shut until at least 10 years after she turns 18.”
“I did what I was told for fear of retaliation,” she said.
The two bills come against the backdrop of the political drama that unfolded at the state headquarters last year after supporters of a policy change failed to agree on whether and how victims of child sexual abuse would be given a way to file lawsuits against their abusers years after the assault occurred. .
Disabling a “review window” would have given these victims a period of time to take legal action over the abuses they had suffered for years. other countries, Like Pennsylvania, Such an opportunity to allow survivors of historic abuse by Catholic priests to file lawsuits.
More: A Denver priest – his father’s close friend – raped him. The report of the assault on the Catholic Church in the state revealed the secret.
However, attorneys for the Colorado legislature have warned lawmakers that such a Centennial window is likely to violate the state constitution and that the measure may be overturned in court. The Colorado Constitution states that once a statute of limitations is passed, a lawsuit cannot be brought even if there is a change of law.
Some wanted to attempt the window anyway, which led to the procedure’s demise.
“I am not ready to pass a bill allowing perpetrators to get away from their predicament,” Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, said during a committee hearing last year that she requested that its own legislation be rejected. I will not accept lenient justice. I think we have to do better. All victims of sexual assault deserve to hold their attackers accountable. “
(For criminal cases, there is no statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in Colorado, although children are defined under state law as being 14 years of age or younger.)
The death of the 2021 Act shocked and angered many victims and victim advocacy groups. This year, supporters of the review window did not participate.
“We don’t work together, no, definitely not,” said Rep. Matt Sober, a Republican from Delta working on Senate Bills 73 and 88.
But this does not mean that lawmakers are still trying to give victims of violations of past years a way to take legal action against their abusers.
“There has always been a desire to try to address the well-documented ancient history of child sexual abuse and institutional cover-up in Colorado,” said Rana Simmons, public affairs director for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “I think the problem was just how to do it.”
This is the place Senate Bill 88 Eat in. It is seen as a compromise that helps survivors of historical abuse while giving institutions the power to correct their mistakes in a way that pastors feel does not violate the constitution. It also would not threaten efforts to remove the statute of limitations in the future because it is a completely separate legislation.
This measure will create a new civil right that allows victims to prosecute their abusers and organizations “who knew or should have known that (a person) or youth program poses a risk of sexual misconduct against a minor.”
However, organizations are immune from harm if:
- Reasonable action has been taken to address the risk of sexual misconduct against a minor
- Perform an evaluation to determine whether this procedure was effective
- Adequately warn families of the dangers of sexual misconduct against a minor
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“If the institution has taken steps upon discovering that it may have been harboring sexual harassers in the past, for example, it has established a trust fund to be able to help compensate victims or if they provide evidence to law enforcement, then they will have immunity from this new civil right, Super said.
Soubir said the Catholic Church in Colorado will likely be immune, due to the steps it has taken to prevent further abuse by priests and its agreement with the Colorado State Attorney’s Office to have a lengthy investigation into child sexual abuse allegations over the past seven decades.
“They will have immunity, I think,” Soubir said.
More: The Colorado Review mentioned sexual abuse of Catholic Church priests, but not those who cover up their crimes
Super, Danielson and other lawmakers working on the legislation, including Democrat Representative Davna Michaelson Jennett of Commerce City, believe Senate Bill 88 will pass a constitutional rally because they put in place a new law rather than amending an old one.
“There is no equivalent in Colorado law,” Soubear said. “It’s brand new.”
Simmons, with the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, believes the legislation is narrowly designed to adhere to the constitution. She said, “What we arrived at was not presented in any legislative body in the country.” “It’s a completely new idea.”
Senate Bill 73 now heads to the full Senate for debate. The date of the first hearing of the Senate Bill 88 has yet to be determined.
There is a feeling among victim advocates that after last year’s bumpy road they have a good chance of success this year, even though the Senate Bill 88 may be more difficult to pass the finish line.
“I am an old racing horse trainer.“ I didn’t enter a horse that I didn’t think could win the race. ”Don Corram, a Republican from Montrose working on bills.“ I never submitted a bill that I didn’t think I could get past. I feel good about it. “