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Colorado General Assembly to Vote on Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act

By Burg Simpson
May 21, 2021
3 min read

During the 2021 Colorado legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly will be considering the bipartisan SB 21-088, the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act. The bill passed the Colorado Senate on May 13, 2021 and will move to the House.

Why Is the Bill Necessary?

Hundreds of children in Colorado have been sexually abused or assaulted because of institutions protecting themselves instead of the child victims of abuse. Because of the sensitivity of the issue and the young age at which the abuse may occur, many victims wait years to report sexual abuse. However, this delay in reporting may impede victims’ ability to pursue justice because of Colorado’s short window for filing civil legal claims.

How the Bill Will Target Child Sexual Abuse

The Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act gives victims of sexual abuse during childhood the means to bring new civil actions toward the actor and the organization if misconduct was known or should have been known. Powerful institutions may use their clout to cover up allegations of child sexual abuse, and this bill would create a separate path of recourse for victims. If passed, the bill would also allow organizations to be held liable for failing to take steps to reasonably address the situation or monitor or exclude the actor from having contact with minors.

SB 21-088 would only hold liable bad actors who knew or should have known children were being sexually abused, drawing a distinction that a bad actor must meet the conditions of having knowledge and acting negligently. The organization would be subject to the provisions of the bill if it failed to protect children in one of two ways:

  1. Active avoidance of taking steps to hold employees accountable when they knew the employees were sexually abusing children
  2. Because they knew or suspected children in their programs were being sexually abused and deliberately ignored the problem and aided in the continued perpetuation of child sexual abuse

The Importance of Protecting Colorado Children

Child sexual abuse is a major public health issues, and victims can experience a wide range of psychological and physical ailments lasting for their rest of their lives, including depression, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, drug abuse, panic disorder, and more. The bill would enable survivors to access monetary resources to treat these complex, life-altering conditions.

Preventing child sexual abuse is less financially costly than covering it up. According to the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the average lifetime cost for female and male victims of nonfatal childhood sexual abuse is $282,000 and the lifetime economic burden of fatal and nonfatal child sexual abuse is $9.3 billion, making it the most costly of all crimes. SB 21-088 would shift the financial burden of this abuse from survivors and the public to perpetrators and the institutions that covered it up.

The bill has bipartisan support and would apply retroactively for any victim who endured sexual misconduct as a minor prior to, on, or after January 1, 2022.

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