SNAP applauds the Colorado Legislature for passing a bill to allow some victims who have been time-barred from justice to have their day in court
This week, on the last legislative session day, Colorado lawmakers made history. We are thrilled to report that with the passage of SB 21-088 at least some survivors of child sexual abuse in the state will have a chance at justice. Although this bill will not allow victims to sue their perpetrators, it will let survivors file lawsuits against institutions if their harm was the consequence of a cover-up by the organization.
Survivors once believed that it would be impossible to reform the statute of limitations in Colorado retroactively. The consensus was that it would take an amendment to the state's constitution to allow the revival of time-barred actions for child sexual assault. However, the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act creates a new cause of action. Until victims and their supporters are able to place the reform of the Colorado Constitution on the ballot, this is the best possible solution. Constitutional attorneys are confident that the legislation will pass any challenge in the state's Supreme Court.
Colorado SNAP Leader Jeb Barrett said, "Individuals and organizations have been lobbying for legislative reform in the state for 30 years. I joined with them in the battle for accountability, with justice and healing for adult survivors of child sexual assault, in 2005. Exposing institutions guilty of systematic cover-up and educating the public concerning the historic violations of the most vulnerable in our society has been our great and persistent passion."
This measure is monumental for survivors of child sex abuse in the state who have long had no recourse to restitution for the harm done to them. Although lawmakers worked with constitutional experts to ensure the sound language of the bill, opponents, such as the Catholic Church, continued to suggest that there was a problem. The Colorado Catholic Conference said in a statement that constitutional questions "will likely delay opportunities for survivors to receive restitution." We feel that their true concern is that this new law could potentially expose how Church officials protected and enabled abusers for decades.
We would also note that when civil cases are filed publicly naming perpetrators, they not only expose "hidden predators," they also often encourage other victims to come forward and report their own abuse. Sometimes, these new accusations may be what is needed by law enforcement to pursue criminal charges. The new reforms in Colorado will not only help survivors find justice, they can also lead to safer communities for today's children.
In our view, this historic victory is a great development for everyone in the Centennial State.
CONTACT: Jeb Barrett, SNAP Denver ([email protected], 720-608-8532), Michael McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected] 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)