Opinion: Why lawmakers should reform law to help victims of childhood sexual abuse

Iread with great disappointment the failure of Colorado state lawmakers to once again take action which would have granted access to our legal system for child victims of sexual abuse.

It was right for victims and advocates to pull support from House Bill 1296, eliminating the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse only going forward. The bill as proposed, failed to address the needs of past child sexual abuse victims.

Some legislators expressed concerns any retroactive provision would violate the Colorado constitution. The lawmakers could have advanced two separate bills simultaneously if they feared a “look back” provision of the bill would later be ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

Many other states have in fact passed such “look back” provisions that have survived constitutional challenges. I do understand laws differ from state to state, but where there is a will, there is a way!

Mental health professionals have told us one in four girls and one in six boys will be the victim of unwanted sexual contact by the age of 18. The average age a child of sexual abuse reports such crimes is 52 years of age. Astonishing facts, some may ask, why did these child victims wait so long?

Shame, guilt and self-blame most often compel a victim into silence. Sexual predators count on that and work hard to instill such feelings in their victims; they are skilled predators. Prevalence of the sexual abuse of minors is far greater than we as a society are willing to admit. Those facts alone demand action by state lawmakers.

When I was a young teenager, my parish priest took me on a summer trip to Colorado for several weeks. We took an overnight train from Chicago to Denver’s Union Station in the summer of 1978 when the sexual abuse first began.

At first, I thought the world of this man who took a big brother role in my life. He was attentive to my studies and wanted to make sure I was a responsible, well-educated young man. It was part of a long grooming process.

I was very excited at first as he planned to take me on a rail trip from Silverton to Durango on a famous old steam line, travel on a cog rail to the summit of Pikes Peak and visit...

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