DENVER (KDVR) — Lawmakers and victims’ advocates hope this year’s legislative session will bring about major change for survivors of sexual assault. With just a few weeks under their belt, one bill is looking to change the course of consequences for abusers.
The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports only five in every 1,000 people who commit sexual assault end up in prison. This new measure in Colorado looks to put an end to abusers getting off scot-free.
“What we know about statutes of limitations is that they only serve to the benefit of the perpetrator, and they prevent survivors from actually accessing justice,” said Raana Simmons, director of Public Affairs for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA).
Statutes of limitations are a time frame when formal legal charges can be brought about after a crime was committed. Current Colorado law sets that time frame for a sexual violation against a child to six years after they turn 18 or age 24. Other circumstances exist if the claim is against an employer or organization harboring abusers. But if this measure becomes law, that would be a thing of the past.
“It does away with the statute of limitations for civil claims, which shifts the cost of sexual assault from the victim back to the perpetrator. The bill also gives parents an ability to seek damages on behalf of their children, so they’re not forced into court,” said bill sponsor state Sen. Jessie Danielson.
The measure passed the senate unopposed Tuesday, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle standing behind it.
“Perpetrators need to pay for the crime. They absolutely do. I think it’s very expensive. We were told in committee, a lot of this treatment — a lifetime — treatment can be more than $200,000. So, there you go, stand with kids,” said cosponsor Sen. Don Coram.
While RAINN estimates a child becomes a victim of these crimes every nine minutes in the U.S., this measure aims to ensure everyone has an outlet to speak up in the future.
“The average age a person comes forward with child sexual abuse is 52. So, we need to extend this opportunity to people who have been through this horrible trauma so they can begin to seek these services to help them heal,” Danielson said.
If passed, this will apply to assaults happening after this becomes law.
A companion bill that would hold organizations responsible for misconduct happening in youth programs is set to be heard in committee next week.