All children deserve the opportunity to live, learn, grow, and play in safety. Policies that support prevention strategies related to child sexual abuse are critical in order to support the health and safety of future generations. In 2020 alone, a year when reports of child maltreatment were dramatically down as result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine and stay-at-home orders, over 1,000 children were substantiated as victims of child sexual abuse through the child welfare system in Colorado. (1) However, Colorado has made some important strides in 2021.
As the Colorado Legislative Session wraps up, bills focused on child sexual abuse prevention and response make their way across the finish line.
Senate Bill 21-073, Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault, removes the statute of limitations and other restrictions on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct, including derivative claims and claims brought against a person or entity that is not the perpetrator of the sexual misconduct. Eliminating the civil statute of limitations for sexual assault allows child and adult survivors time to heal so that they may access the civil legal system and monetary resources to thrive into adulthood after surviving sexual abuse.
→ SB21-73 was signed by Governor Polis on April 15th, 2021.
Senate Bill 21-088, the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act, creates a new civil cause of action for any person sexually abused in Colorado while participating in a youth program as a child. The cause of action applies retroactively and victims whose assault occurred between January 1, 1960 and January 1, 2022 may bring a cause of action before January 1, 2025. The bill ensures that all victims of child sexual abuse, including victims who have delayed disclosing the abuse they experienced into adulthood, the opportunity to hold responsible culpable and complicit individuals and organizations accountable.
→ SB21-88 passed both the Senate and House.
SB21-017, Sexual Contact By An Educator, updates hiring practices and ongoing duties of both charter schools and public schools to support information sharing with the Department of Education regarding whether a potential hiree or previous employee has been dismissed by or has resigned from a school as a result of an allegation of unlawful sexual behavior or an allegation of a sexual act involving a student who is 18 years of age or older. The bill additionally creates a class 1 misdemeanor, abuse of public trust by an educator, for limited and specific cases of educator sexual contact with students over the age of 18.
→ SB21-17 passed both the Senate and House.
House Bill 21-1320, Sunset Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB), authorizes the SOMB to continue, unchanged, until September 1, 2023. A stakeholder process is anticipated in the coming year to create a bill for the next legislative session. As changes are considered to the SOMB, Illuminate Colorado encourages the inclusion of mandatory standards, comprehensive oversight, and victim input throughout the process.
→ HB21-1320 passed both the House and Senate.
Adults are responsible for creating and sustaining safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments where children can grow up and reach their full health and life potential. It is possible to ensure that every child, in every community, never experiences sexual abuse if prevention strategies are thoughtfully incorporated into all aspects of society by governments, businesses, nonprofits, community organizations, and individuals.
Thank you to the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and many survivors, for leading the efforts on SB21-073 and SB21-088.
(1) Colorado Department of Human Services, Types of Allegations of Maltreatment Report Time Period: January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020, Retrieved from CDHSDataMatters.org on May 18, 2021 https://rom.socwel.ku.edu/CO_Public/Login.aspx?H=7152.
Review the 2021 Policy Agenda
Download the 2021 Illuminating Policy Agenda.
Review the Illuminate Colorado Bill Tracker to find the status of other bills this session related to strengthening families and tune in next week for a full recap of the 2021 Legislative session and the 2021 Illuminating Policy Agenda.