January 28, 2020
By Jesse Paul
Lawmakers are considering eliminating the civil statute of limitations for child sex assault, but Colorado’s constitution appears to prohibit laws from working retroactively. Victims’ advocates think there is a path to address past abuse.
Colorado lawmakers plan to bring legislation this year that would give child sexual assault victims unlimited time to sue their abusers and the institutions that protect the predators.
But for people abused in the past — including the more than 150 victims of Catholic priests identified in a recently released report on sexual misconduct in Colorado — the change may be coming too late.
That’s because the legislature’s attorneys say Colorado’s constitution prevents laws from working retroactively and that once a statute of limitations has expired, a case cannot be reopened. Many survivors, however, don’t come forward until decades after their abuse.
Right now, child sex assault victims in Colorado have six years from the day they turn 18 to sue their abusers. They have just two years to sue an organization that acted negligently in allowing the abuse to continue or by shielding the perpetrator.
Even though other states have successfully changed their statutes to allow survivors to retroactively sue, lawmakers pushing for the alteration to Colorado law say their hands are tied. But victims and their advocates say the constitutional question isn’t settled and that they’d like to see a fight.