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State lawmakers in Colorado recently enacted the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act, which is intended to empower sexual abuse survivors. Under the law, people who were sexually abused as children can file a civil lawsuit or take other legal action against their abuser, even if the incident occurred many years ago.
"It (the new law) is meant to help those who have survived child sexual abuse to regain their voice that they had been denied for a long time,” Maureen Basenberg, Executive Director of Safe Passage Children's Advocacy Center, said in an interview with KOAA NBC News.
Colorado sexual abuse lawyer Stephen A. Longo, who was also interviewed by KOAA NBC News, agreed. In particular, Longo praised Colorado lawmakers for giving victims the power to pursue legal action against their abusers. The law will also hopefully serve as a wake-up call for businesses and government entities that employ sexual abusers.
"It (the new law) puts them on notice that this stuff is what they need to be sweeping for, controlling, screening for,” Longo said in the interview with KOAA NBC News. “This is something that you're not going to be able to sweep under the rug.”
What is the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act?
Adopted last year, Colorado’s Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act (SB21-088) expands the rights of child sexual abuse victims statewide. Child sexual abuse involves sexual misconduct of a minor, which is anyone under 18 years old.
In particular, the new law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2022, gives older, adult victims of child sexual abuse more time to take legal action against their abuser or the abuser’s employer. In particular, the law states:
“The victim may bring a civil claim against the actor who committed the sexual misconduct and against an organization that operates or manages a youth-related activity or program (youth program) if the organization knew or should have known of a risk of sexual misconduct against minors and the sexual misconduct occurred while the victim was participating in a youth program managed by the organization.”
Is there a deadline for taking legal action?
Yes. That’s why it’s important to talk to Attorney Longo right away to learn more about your legal options.
The new Colorado law (which went into effect Jan. 1, 2022) applies to child sexual abuse that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 1960. Previously, child sexual abuse victims only had six (6) years in most cases to file a lawsuit or take other legal action. As a result, most people who were sexually abused years ago could not take legal action against their abusers.
Now, victims of child sexual abuse that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 1960, and up until Jan. 1, 2022, in Colorado have three (3) years to file a civil lawsuit or take other legal action. As for child sexual abuse that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2022, there is no deadline for taking legal action under the new Colorado law.
Such deadlines are known as statutes of limitations. The one-time, three-year deadline for sexual abuse that occurred between 1960 and 2021 means that victims must take legal action before Jan. 1, 2025.
Three years (or no deadline at all) might seem like a long time. But the more time you have to build a legal case, the better. And the sooner you initiate legal action, the stronger your case will likely be in Colorado. Evidence can disappear over time. Witnesses can forget what happened or move away. Don’t miss out on your opportunity for justice. Take action now.
Who can victims take legal action against under the act?
Colorado’s Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act expands who victims can file a civil lawsuit against for such actions. In particular, victims can sue:
- Their abuser directly.
- Their abuser’s employer, including daycare centers, public schools, sports facilities, and youth organizations.
- The local, state, or federal government entity that employs or oversees the abuser.
In addition, sexual abuse victims may be able to take legal action against more than one at-fault party. Each claim is different. That’s why it’s important to discuss your case with a lawyer who understands how the legal system works.
What is sovereign immunity?
Colorado’s new law prohibits government entities from claiming sovereign immunity in child sexual abuse cases. This means that a public school or government-sponsored youth program can be held legally responsible for child sexual abuse committed by one of its employees.
Specifically, the Act “waives sovereign immunity for the claim so a victim may bring a claim against a public employee or public entity that operates a youth program.” As a result, Colorado sexual abuse victims now have more legal options, Longo explained in a recent news interview.
"Sovereign immunity would otherwise be in play for these cases,” Attorney Longo said in an interview with KOAA NBC 5 News. “If you were a victim or had a civil case against the government, you would have to fight around sovereign immunity to bring your claim. What this law is saying…the governmental entity whether it's a school or anything else is not going to be protected.”
How much is my claim worth?
Colorado’s Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act places certain limits on how much money sexual abuse victims can receive. This is especially true in cases involving a public entity or public employee. These limits can be found in the "Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.”
In general, victims of child sexual abuse covered by the new Colorado law can obtain $500,000 to $1 million in many cases. However, don’t simply assume that’s how much your case is worth. The best way to know how much money you could be eligible to receive is to talk to Attorney Longo. He knows how Colorado’s Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act works. He can answer your questions and explain your legal options.
Get the lawyer who gets results and cares about your case. Contact our law firm to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation with Colorado sexual abuse attorney Stephen A. Longo. He’s the lawyer you want when it matters most.