Colorado Lawmakers Open “Look Back” Window For Child Sex Abuse Survivors
Colorado lawmakers passed a bill to open a 3-year “look back” window. Many older survivors of child sexual abuse will have a renewed chance to seek justice.
On July 6, 2021, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 88 (SB 88) into law. SB 88 will open a three-year “look back” window for child sexual abuse survivors. This “look back” window revives many expired cases of child sex abuse in the state of Colorado.
The Colorado “look back” will open on January 1, 2022. It will close on December 31, 2024.
This new law comes several months after state lawmakers eliminated the deadline to file civil claims of sexual assault.
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SB 88 Gives Many Abuse Survivors New Legal Options
Colorado lawmakers have been debating child sexual abuse legislation for years. Retroactive measures, such as those seen in SB 88, have faced great controversy. But, many Colorado lawmakers believe retroactive measures are necessary to restore justice to abuse survivors.
“Today is about a decades-long fight for what’s right, the personal dedication of survivors across the state coming forward … telling their stories. Because of that, we now have a policy that protects kids the way they should be protected and gives adult survivors the ability to seek healing the way they see fit.”
SB 88 does not revive all past claims of abuse. It only applies to incidents of child sexual abuse that occurred on or after January 1, 1960.
SB 88 also caps monetary damages for civil claims against an institution that ignored or hid abuse allegations. Damages against a public government entity found guilty of covering up abuse will be capped at $387,000. Damages against private entities will be capped up to $1 million.
The “look back” window opens on January 1, 2022. Survivors have three years to file a claim against an abuser or responsible institution. The window closes on December 31, 2024.
SB 88 Helps Clergy Abuse Survivors
The ongoing Catholic priest abuse scandal is one of the main reasons Colorado lawmakers have been fighting for legislative changes. In December 2020, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser released the findings of a 22-month state clergy abuse investigation. The report identified more than 50 priests accused of abuse.
The abuse allegations date back decades. However, by the time the report was published, many of these cases had legally expired under the state’s statute of limitations.
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. SOLs vary based on the jurisdiction, the crime and the intended legal action (i.e. criminal charges versus a civil claim).
This new law will give many Colorado clergy abuse survivors a second chance to file a clergy abuse lawsuit. It will also help survivors sexually abused by teachers or school faculty, health professionals and youth leaders.
Lawmakers Pass Similar Legislation Nationwide
Nationwide, state lawmakers have passed similar legislation. Many states have expanded criminal and civil statutes for sexual offenses against minors. A handful of states have opened similar retroactive windows to renew older claims of abuse.
New York, California, New Jersey, North Carolina and Louisiana have opened “look back” windows for survivors in their states. Pennsylvania is also considering similar legislative action.
As more states pass similar laws, abuse survivors may find comfort, healing and justice through the legal system. Many will also win compensation for their past traumas.
Boyd, S. (2021, July 12). Landmark New Colorado Laws Give Survivors Of Child Sexual Assault Shot At Justice. CBS4 Denver.
Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act, SB 21-088, 73rd General Assembly (Colorado 2021).
Child USA. (2021, April 21). Colorado Child Sex Abuse SOLs. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
Miller, F. (2021, June 3). Survivors of decades-old sexual abuse could sue perpetrators under bill nearing final test. Colorado Newsline.
Paul, J. (2021, June 8). Colorado lawmakers approve effort to give past child sex assault victims a chance to sue their abusers, institutions. The Colorado Sun.