HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (KDVR) — A new law has opened the door for survivors of sexual assault, who were minors at the time of the abuse, to seek civil damages against the accused and their employer. The new law threw out the six-year statute of limitations for sexual assault cases involving minors.
“In simple terms, these kids are victimized by adults and they get victimized further by the system when they are not allowed to address their problem, when they’re not allowed the legal redress that most people are able to pursue and that our society is based on,” attorney James Avery said. “It’s just a way to level the field and giving them a square chance of getting redress.”
One of his clients, Emily, was sexually assaulted by her racquetball coach at the Northridge Recreation Center in Highlands Ranch starting in 2011, when she was 14 years old.
“I was sexually abused for four years, multiple times a week, and unfortunately it happened in a public facility,” Emily said.
When Emily turned 18, she stopped seeing William Fearing and reported the abuse to law enforcement. William fearing was convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor by a person in a position of trust and sentenced to prison in 2019. Emily said it has had a huge impact on her life.
“I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. I struggle weekly, if not daily, with flashbacks and disassociation which is something my brain did to protect me at the time. It continues to be a handicap in my daily life,” Emily said.
Her lawsuit alleges that another employee came forward and expressed her concerns to the facilities supervisor. They claim management did not respond appropriately to those concerns. The lawsuit alleges the management “deliberately disregarded and covered up the report.”
“I think more people could’ve spoken up and people could’ve listened to what was said. I think there were things that could’ve been done to prevent a lot, if not all, of the abuse. I hope that in the future, people who are mandatory reporters who are in a position of authority will look out for those signs and take the right action in the future,” Emily said.
She is thankful this new law was passed last year, giving her a chance to seek justice.
“I would encourage other victims of sexual abuse to speak up. It’s been challenging, but there’s been a lot of amazing people. The justice system has served me well,” Emily said.
“It is groundbreaking. Many people like Emily have so far had the doors of the courthouse shut to them. This is not something they can deal with as minors,” Avery, her attorney, said. “This gives her the opportunity to come forward and gives the justice system an opportunity to do what it should do. And hopefully stop this type of abuse from happening in our recreation centers, our schools, our churches, etc.”
The Highlands Ranch Community Association sent the following response after our story initially aired Monday night:
HRCA is aware of the lawsuit filed regarding Mr. Fearing. The HRCA strongly denies the lawsuit’s allegations about it and its conduct. HRCA is concerned for the safety of everyone who uses its facilities, but due to the pending litigation and out of respect for the parties and the court process, cannot comment further at this time.