Colorado legislators are moving to amend the state Constitution after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled a law giving child sex abuse victims a temporary window to file lawsuits over decades-old cases was unconstitutional. If passed, the amendment will appear on the November ballot.
Sen. Jessie Danielson, who is sponsoring the bill, said in a statement that “For too long, Colorado law has failed victims of childhood sexual abuse.” “We are asking the people of Colorado to stand with survivors who were abused as children. Help them hold not only predators accountable, but institutions and organizations who swept it under the rug.”
In 2021, Colorado passed the bipartisan Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act (SB21-088), joining 29 other states and territories in giving survivors of childhood sexual abuse an opportunity to pursue civil claims against those responsible for their abuse regardless of when it happened. In June 2023, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the lookback window in the bipartisan Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act was unconstitutional because it violated the state constitution’s ban on “retrospective” laws.
“Since the court found the state constitution does not allow survivors to seek justice for their abuse, we call on Colorado voters to amend our constitution to say that it does,” said Sen. Danielson.
Fellow prime sponsors of the bipartisan SCR-1 are Sen. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), Majority Leader Monica Duran (D-Wheat Ridge) and Rep. Mike Weissman (D-Aurora).
The current statute of limitations for victims to pursue child sexual abuse claims denies them the chance to seek justice after undergoing years of trauma and possible recovery,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields. “Statutes of limitations are the tool most often used to deny and defeat claims of sexual abuse, but healing from trauma has no timeline; that is why the civil statute of limitations needs to be eliminated. Survivors in Colorado deserve the ability to access the civil legal system on their own schedule.”
“This is all about the survivors. This is about their day in court, their opportunity to be heard and their opportunity to get closure, because they deserve it,” said Rep. Monica Duran. “I believe that there is overwhelming support for sexual assault survivors to get their day in court, and Colorado voters could help victims stand up to their abusers. As a survivor of abuse myself, I am proud to help bring justice to abusers and to help protect our children from future predators.”
Colorado has enacted two laws in recent years related to child sexual abuse survivors and the justice system. The first removed the six-year civil statute of limitations for the crime as of 2022. The second would have given survivors a window of time to file a lawsuit over abuse that occurred as early as the 1960s.
The bill has a single Republican sponsor so far in Sen. Mark Baisley of Woodland Park, but Danielson noted that the 2021 bills had bipartisan support.
Currently, 27 states have passed similar revival legislation or opened windows for people to seek justice over old cases, and 18 states have eliminated the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.