Committee Eliminates Time Limit for Sex Crimes

By Steven K. Paulson
Associated Press, carried in CBS 4 [Denver CO]
February 3, 2006

(AP) DENVER A legislative committee agreed Thursday to eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitation for sex crimes following powerful testimony from sex abuse victims, including a former Miss America.

Marilyn Van Derbur Atler said she was so traumatized that it took decades before she could speak about being molested by her father.

"Almost all of us are in our 40s and 50s before we have the emotional strength to talk about our childhood and now so many survivors are finally beginning to learn our perpetrators never stopped," she told the House Judiciary Committee.

"I urge you to remove any statute of limitations because of our unique, shaming, terrorizing violations we endure as children," she said.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure (House Bill 1088) unanimously and sent it to the full House for debate. The bill would remove criminal and civil limits on the statute of limitations for sex offenses against a child. It would apply to private institutions, including churches and private colleges, but it would not include public institutions, including schools or police.

The law is similar to one approved in California, which opened a one-year window in 2003. Some 800 lawsuits involving the church were filed in California during that period.

Rep. Rosemary Marshall, D-Denver, insisted her bill is not directed at any specific organization, but some lawmakers disagreed.

"This was intended to be about the Catholic Church," said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma.

At least 25 cases were filed in Colorado last year by people alleging they were sexually assaulted by former priests or a Catholic school teacher when they were children, but lawmakers said many others have not come forward because the statute of limitation has expired.

Timothy Dore, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, said the proposed change in state law is unfair because it would only apply to private institutions, excluding coaches, police and teachers who have been accused of the same offenses.

"These incidents could be from 1950, the perpetrator could be dead, and they could still file a lawsuit," Dore said.

A conference spokesman said the diocese has already addressed the problem, establishing an office of child and youth protection and requiring that all reports of abuse are reported to police.


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