Law to Protect Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, Hold Abusers Accountable Goes into Effect

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 9:06 AM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DENVER, Colo. (PRESS RELEASE) - Marking the conclusion of a years-long effort to protect survivors of child sexual abuse and hold institutions that cover up abuse accountable, the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act went into effect Jan. 1, 2022.

In addition to helping current and future child survivors, the law also gives survivors who are now adults a chance to act. Survivors who were sexually abused as children after 1960 have the next three years to file lawsuits against their abusers and institutions under the new law’s terms.

“The community is finally able to say yea, we get it, we understand that this can take some time to achieve healing, and we want to be ready to help you with this next step,” said Maureen Basenberg, executive director at children’s advocacy center Safe Passage.

A non-profit, Safe Passage is the main resource center in the Pikes Peak Region for child survivors and their families. Safe Passage is instrumental in conducting in-depth investigations into sexual abuse reports along with law enforcement and other authorities. Basenberg mentioned three key things this new law does:

  1. It gives survivors more time to come forward with legal action. Previously, the state statute of limitations only allowed a short window of time for victims to tell authorities about the abuse. Once that time window passed, victims were typically told no legal action could be taken. Basenberg says, “The time frame didn’t allow for what we know can be a very long journey for a victim to feel safe ... [The abuser] might threaten their family members, their pets, and they create all these circumstances of shame, and abuse thrives in that secrecy ... It can take quite a while before a child feels ready to say something.”
  2. It makes it more likely for survivors and families to see reparations. Basenberg says, “Those reparations are important. It’s just a good symbol that we are coming alongside those victims.”
  3. It holds institutions accountable in ways that were not possible before in Colorado. Basenberg says,“That organization can then be held civilly liable to make reparations and pay forward to support the healing journey ... Institutions, that may have known the abuse occurred and looked the other way.”

Previous article:

The law - sponsored by Senators Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge) and Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) and Representatives Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-Commerce City) and Matt Soper (R-Delta) - allows survivors of child sexual abuse to sue schools, government entities, or private institutions that cover up sexual abuse, as well as the perpetrators, and seeks to prevent future instances of sexual abuse.

“No child should ever have to suffer sexual abuse, but for far too long our laws have failed to protect the youngest victims of these unspeakable crimes, and today we say no more,” said Sen. Danielson. “This law ensures that actions taken by abusers and institutions to harm our little ones can no longer be swept under the rug, and will hold those bad actors accountable for their vile behavior. I am proud to stand with survivors. I will keep fighting to make sure they finally get the justice they deserve, and can begin to heal.”

”It’s been a long road to get here, but now, survivors of childhood sexual assault can finally pursue justice,” said Rep. Jenet. “Getting this law passed would not have happened without the tireless advocacy and heartbreaking testimony of so many people who told their stories. This law will help hold abusers and the institutions that cover up their crimes accountable. Healing takes time, and now victims of abuse can seek justice that has long been denied.”

”We must protect survivors of sexual abuse at all costs, especially our children, but for decades our laws have benefited abusers over survivors,” said Sen. Fields. “We’re turning the tide on this egregious reality by ensuring that we provide adequate time for survivors to come forward and disclose their abuse. We recognize that the healing process is long and hard, and this historic law will make it easier to stop predators from causing further harm and empower survivors to seek out closure when they are ready.”

The Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act allows survivors of child sexual abuse to file civil suits through an entirely new and freestanding cause of action, specifically tailored to address coverups that have persisted for decades. The law creates a new right of relief for any person sexually abused in Colorado, including those abused while participating in a youth program as a child.

Delayed disclosure of child sexual abuse has impacted the path to healing for survivors and often, by the time victims are able to come forward about their experience, Colorado’s extraordinarily short window of opportunity to file civil legal claims has closed.

This has historically prevented hundreds of child sexual abuse victims from accessing the only option they have to seek monetary compensation for the pain they suffered – a necessary resource to rebuild their lives after experiencing such trauma.

The Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act cleared the Senate and House by wide, bipartisan majorities, and Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law last July.

Copyright 2021 KKTV. All rights reserved.