Colorado child sex abuse survivors can sue institutions that hid abuse

Individuals who were abused as children in Colorado can sue the institutions that hid abuse or did nothing to stop it starting in January.

Gov. Jared Polis signed SB21-088 into law Tuesday, giving survivors another avenue to pursue claims against government entities, schools and private institutions that have youth programs like the Boy Scouts or the Catholic Church. The law caps how much victims can get from the lawsuits — up to $1 million from private entities and up to $387,000 from governmental entities.

“The bill provides an opportunity for survivors to seek damages for terrible and sometimes institutionalized abuses that occurred when they were children,” Polis spokesman Conor Cahill said.

In April, the governor signed SB21-073, which removes the statute of limitations for child sex abuse lawsuits, but it doesn’t apply retroactively.

Previously, survivors had only six years to sue abusers after turning 18. The law signed Tuesday covers abuse as far back as 1960 until January 2022 — as long as a lawsuit against an institution is filed by January 2025.

Opponents argued that the law is unconstitutional because it allows victims to seek damages retroactively, but backers said legal experts have determined otherwise.

Sponsor Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Commerce City Democrat and abuse survivor herself, said this will be an opportunity to give at least some survivors a chance at closure.

“Obviously you can really not ever put closure on sexual abuse that happened to you as a child — I think that that stays with you,” she said. “However, if we can give them their day in court, their time to build some type of resolution, I think we’ll be doing something really important for the survivor community.”

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