Colorado sexual abuse survivors will finally get a long-awaited change in law to provide civil justice.
After 15 years of intense lobbying, Colorado joins a dozen other states that have eliminated the statute of limitations for some or all types of claims arising from childhood sexual abuse. On April 15, 2021, Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 73, which removes the restrictive statute of limitations placed on victims to file civil lawsuits against their perpetrators or institutions, including employers or youth programs, which are implicated in the misconduct.
Bill 73 goes into effect beginning on January 1, 2022, and survivors of childhood sex abuse and other types of sexual misconduct will be able to hold their perpetrators accountable in Colorado’s legal system, no matter how much time has elapsed since the abuse occurred.
“To all the survivors and advocates who worked tirelessly, I’m really proud to be here when this day has come. There’s no place for red tape between survivors and healing in Colorado,” said Polis during the signing ceremony.
Under current law, children who are abused have six years after they turn 18 to file a civil suit against their perpetrator and two years to sue an organization. This bill applies to a range of other offenses against children and adults, including sexual assault and trafficking.
“Victims deserve justice whenever they choose to seek it. Outdated laws won’t be able to stop them anymore,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, one of the bill’s sponsors. The other House of Representatives sponsor, Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta, called it a “historic bill.”
Many survivors go years before they are ready to report or talk about the abuse they encountered as children, and this new bill could give them justice and some peace of mind. According to ChildUSA, the average age for a survivor who comes forward about their abuse is 52. Delayed disclosure can happen for a variety of reasons, including fear, shame, cultural norms, a relationship to the perpetrator and intellectual or communication challenges.
SB-73 also allows parents to bring lawsuits on behalf of their children, including against organizations or entities such as school districts or churches that turned a blind eye to abuse. SB73 applies only to future victims and those whose statute of limitations has not yet expired, with no “look-back window” which would have allowed people for whom the six-year statute of limitations had already expired to be granted a limited period of time in which they’d be able to sue their abusers.