Sexual assaults in Colorado have a very strict statute of limitations that nearly always expirations six years after a child turns 18 or 24, if the sexual assault was committed when a person was a young child. But this time limit doesn’t take into account the fact that the young brain is still developing during this period and won’t have fully matured by the time the statute elapses. Nor does it account for the fact that most people only come forward after coping with the original crime for decades.
A new Colorado bill would eliminate the sexual assault statute of limitations entirely.
Paul Mones is a sexual abuse lawyer in California who is best known for collections millions of dollars in damages during a recent lawsuit he launched on behalf of victims of sexual assault who were boyscouts. Those efforts and others have helped pave the way for dozens of legislative pushes across the country to abolish or lengthen sexual assault statutes of limitations. Colorado’s new bill is only one such effort.
Sponsor State Senator Jessie Danielson said, “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.”
Danielson added, “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.”
Co-sponsor Senator Don Coram said, “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.”
Director of Public Affairs for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) Raana Simmons said, “What we know about statutes of limitations is that they only serve to the benefits of the perpetrator, and they prevent survivors from actually accessing justice.”
According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), only a fraction of sexual assaults are prosecuted, and out of those only a few in every thousands result in sending the perpetrator to prison for any length of time — and some of those stints are extremely short. The group estimates that a new victim of child sexual assault is made every nine minutes in the United States.
Another bill put forth would expand culpability to those organizations whose members commit sexualized crimes against youths.
RAINN asks several hard questions about effective statutes of limitations, asking state legislators why they haven’t abolished those statutes for serious sex crimes and murder. They also ask why some states reduce the statute of limitations for civil cases when a plaintiff decides not to report the initial crime to law enforcement — something that rarely occurs.