By Brooke Elbert, Communications Coordinator
After being unsuccessful for a full year, Senate Bill 73 to support child survivors of sexual assault was passed by both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly and is awaiting the Governor's signature. Intended to remove the statute of limitations for child survivors of sexual assault, this bill would allow survivors an unlimited amount of time to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator. Currently, survivors only have 6 years after they turn 18 to file a lawsuit. Accompanying this bill is Senate Bill 88, which allows unlimited time for survivors or parents of survivors to sue institutions that failed to intervene after an associated assault occurred. So, what does this mean for our community of sexual assault survivors in Colorado?
Senate Bill 73 would be a small step in the right direction towards empowering survivors to seek justice. With unlimited time to file a lawsuit, survivors can pursue their path to healing in their own time, and meet their own unique needs. Without this time restraint, survivors can rest assured that the opportunity to seek justice will always be available to them. Why is this so important? For starters, we know that nearly 77% of sexual assaults go unreported. There are several reasons for this, one being that survivors feel they won’t be believed, and that nothing will be done as a result. Visit The Journalist’s Resource to explore several powerful “Why I Didn’t Report” stories. Also important to consider is that the path to healing can take more than just 6 years for many survivors. “In my experience, survivors need time - whether due to age or other factors – to determine what kind of justice they need to feel whole and achieve healing,” says Caroline Yates, a therapist here at The Blue Bench. “Extending the civil statute of limitations provides survivors the time they need to fully participate in the court process in a timeline that aligns with their healing rather than re-traumatizing them.”
There are many individuals and organizations who oppose Senate Bill 73 and its accompanying bill to hold institutions accountable. One perspective is that Colorado holds a rather strict statute of limitations; therefore, many don’t see the use in pushing for this piece of legislation. Other organizations such as The Catholic Church support an extended yet limited statute of limitations. “…statues of limitations must have a sensible time limit to ensure due process for all parties involved,” they say. Others argue that evidence to prosecute will be scarce after a certain amount of time. With respect to all opposing arguments, we ask our audience to focus on the perspective of the survivor, and the many factors that may affect their ability to report even 6 years after their assault. As Jacquelyn Aamodt, the Director of Client Services at The Blue Bench points out: “Many survivors may consequently lack the resources for necessary medical and/or mental health treatment. This can compound the amount of time it takes for a survivor to speak out, and negatively compounds the impact of the initial trauma.” Despite all of the differing perspectives of this bill, consideration of the survivor’s perspective should certainly prevail.
Perhaps one critique of Senate Bill 73 we should all hold is that this is only a small step in the movement to end sexual assault. While we would celebrate this minor victory, we know there is still far more to be done.
Our hope is to one day live in a world where sexual assault no longer exists; where there are no more victims, friends and families suffering in its wake. This is our hope. This is what inspires our efforts. And until that day comes, our work is not complete.