Child sex assault victims may have more time to sue

For too long, victims of child sexual assault in Colorado were blocked by legal time restrictions from filing lawsuits against perpetrators of this crime. State legislators, however, plan to take one measure that would address victims of sexual harassment and assault by granting unlimited time and removing time restrictions for sexual assault victims to sue their abusers.

Current law allows child sexual assault victims six years after they turn 18 to file a lawsuit against their abusers. There is a two-year time restriction for suing an organization that was negligent in allowing the abuse to go on or shielding the abuser. In criminal cases, there is no statute of limitations for child sexual assault in Colorado, but children are defined as being no older than 14.

Many victims do not file claims until decades have gone by after the abuse. The proposed law would remove the tie restriction in the current law.

But the state’s constitution may, according to attorneys for the legislature, prevent relief for victims of past abuse where the statute of limitations expired. Colorado’s constitution prevents a law from operating retroactively, according to their opinion and their interpretation of a state Supreme Court decision.

Prohibiting retroactive application to cases where the statute of limitations expired may block over 150 victims of sexual assault by priests from filing lawsuits. These cases were recently disclosed in a report.

Several other states have successfully changed their laws to allow victims to retroactively sue. Victims and advocates in Colorado claim that this constitutional issue is not resolved, and this matter should be pursued.

Some legislators also believe that trying to allow retroactive lawsuits would erode support for removing the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits. Advocates still want the proposal to, at minimum, permit any person who was sexually abused when they were a child to have a two-year period to file lawsuits against the perpetrators.

The state Attorney General’s office is working with three archdiocese in the state to operate a voluntary reparations program for victims. But many survivors have claimed that the process is difficult and requires proof of assaults that happened when the victims were children.

An attorney can help support victims during a traumatic time. Their assistance may help assure perpetrators are held accountable.

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