Colorado may be a part of 12 different states in permitting youngster intercourse abuse survivors to sue abusers indefinitely if new invoice passes
For decades, childhood sexual abuse survivors and their advocates have urged states to bring abusers to justice in civil courts, regardless of how long it has been since the abuse. A non-partisan bill in Colorado law that does just that seems to have received widespread support so far, but it is not without opposition from the Colorado Catholic Conference – a church involved in a sexual abuse scandal in Colorado, the United States and on the whole world is involved.
In Colorado, there is no expiration date to file criminal charges against an individual charged with child sexual abuse. However, the statute of limitations for bringing legal action against a person is only six years after a victim turns 18. Efforts to change this over the past year have failed.
The renewed push to lift the statute of limitations for lawsuits against alleged sex offenders was unanimously voted in the Senate earlier this week – a vote that Wheat Ridge Democratic Senator Jessie Danielson called “historic”. However, the non-partisan law now being submitted to a House Committee does not apply to civil claims that will have expired by the time it enters into force. This has been a sticking point in constitutional problems over the past year.
For this reason, the legislature has introduced a second (also bipartisan) bill to create a new ground for measures that allow people abused as children to sue public and private institutions such as churches, schools and scouts for past abuse that is under their supervision has taken place. Both the Colorado Catholic Conference and the Boy Scouts, who are also subject to allegations of abuse in the state, oppose it.
Delta Republican MP Matt Soper is one of the sponsors on both bills, in part because a childhood sexual abuse statistic sticks with him: victims often don’t reveal the abuse until their fifties.
“And it’s usually not a one-time instance. It is usually asked over and over again by a family member, a close family friend, someone in a position of trust like a teacher or a priest or a club leader or a trainer, ”Soper said. “And it takes years and years for that person to be able to share just their story.”
That was James “Jeb” Barrett’s experience. The child sexual abuse survivor and head of the Denver Survivors Network of Priestly Abused Persons (or SNAP) grew up in Montana and said he was sexually abused as a child by several adults he trusted – a teacher, an uncle , a priest and scout leader. His partner, who was also molested as a child, died of suicide.
It took him until he was 63 to talk about his abuse, he said. He is now 81 years old and understands firsthand the effects of childhood trauma, including dealing with addiction.
In other cases, the adults in a child’s life do not believe them, which promotes that trauma. In the Senate, Senator Brittany Pettersen shared the story of her own mother Tuesday, who was sexually abused by Pettersen’s grandfather for years at a young age. Pettersen’s mother eventually told her mother, who didn’t believe her daughter.
“This bill is about giving back to ensure that (adults who are molested as children) feel for the first time in their lives they have the justice they have been seeking, the recognition they are for have searched their entire lives, “the Lakewood Democrat said.
After years of advocating policies like the two before lawmakers, Barrett said he was hopeful this time around.
“It is gradually moving towards the openness, accountability and transparency that we need across the board” and “equity,” he said.
Assistance and Constitutional Concerns
At least one of the new bills is supported by the Victim Policy Institute, which has been a strong advocate over the past year. And as expected, survivors who campaigned for law over the years are back this year. “So their story shapes public order and what happened to them will not happen to any other child victim in the future,” said Raana Simmons, policy director for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
If Colorado agrees to lift the statute of limitations on civil claims, it will join 12 additional states and Guam, according to Child USAdvocacy of Philadelphia.
Kathryn Robb, executive director of the agency and a survivor herself, testifies in state houses across the country. She said the country is beginning to understand how long it takes to uncover abuse and the effects that trauma has on children’s brains and behavior.
“This is happening across the country right now … because we as a society are realizing the enormous problem we have with child sexual abuse,” she said.
A prime example of the widespread nature of child sexual abuse are allegations against Catholic priests. A recent Colorado investigation found dozens of priests were charged with sexually abusing at least 212 children over the past 70 years, and the Church paid the victims nearly $ 7 million.
The Colorado Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s three dioceses – Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo – said it supported indefinite time for filing criminal charges, but not for civil law as suggested in the bill.
In a statement, the group said it supported “an appropriate and fair extension of the civil statute of limitations; However, statute of limitations must have a reasonable time limit to ensure due process for all parties involved. “
The Boy Scouts of America have also looked into allegations of child sexual abuse across the country. At least 16 men from Colorado joined the nearly 800 men who signed a lawsuit in 2019, saying this happened to them when they were Boy Scouts. (An internal investigation by the Boy Scouts found the abuse spanned from the 1940s through 2016.)
The Boy Scouts of America’s Denver Area Council supports the bill to remove the statute of limitations on civil claims, Scout executive and scout Chuck Brasfeild wrote in a statement. However, the group is concerned about the other bill – creating a new plea against an organization that knew or should have known about the risks and hidden abuse – which, according to Brasfeild, appears to be an unconstitutional transgression.
The Catholic Conference in Colorado also opposes this move, saying: “Passing a law with constitutional and due process problems does not put victims first. It will only delay opportunities for survivors to receive compensation and will not promote real restorative justice. The Catholic Church in Colorado strives to ensure that abuse survivors receive the support they need to find a real healing. “
However, the bill sponsors say that is why they launched the measure – the first Senate committee hearing is expected to take place next week – so that victims can sue the abusers and the organizations they have protected independently of when the abuse took place rather than using what is called a “lookback window” to revive old claims.
According to Legislative Sponsors Commerce City Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Soper, a “lookback window” violates the state’s constitution.
“We really wanted to respect the constitution of our state,” said Soper. “Why else are we here?”
Ted Trimpa, a lobbyist from Colorado for the Victim Policy Institute in Washington, DC, spoke out against the bill last year, saying it hadn’t gone far enough without the “lookback window”. He believed Colorado lawmakers should have taken the matter to court because other states have successfully won such challenges.
This year, his organization is reviewing whether it will support the civil lawsuits law and supports the statute of limitations law, Trimpa said.
Danielsen said she urged lawmakers “to think about the adults who have suffered this type of abuse in their past because it was traumatic and caused lifelong harm, pain and suffering” – people who have had to seek treatment for years . This will shift costs from victims to perpetrators and prevent young children from facing abusers in criminal court. Instead, parents can bring civil actions.
Approval of this bill, she added, enables lawmakers “to stand on the side of the survivors and protect those who cannot protect themselves”.