NewsCovering Colorado


Kavanaugh hearing prompts questions on sex abuse reporting laws

Posted at 10:29 PM, Sep 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-28 01:06:17-04

COLORADO SPRINGS – With the world watching, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford told her story.

“The details about that night that bring me here today are the ones I will never forget,” Ford said. “They have been seared into my memory.”

The back-and-forth hearing prompted questions surrounding the timing of Dr. Ford’s report of the alleged sexual assault, which is said to have happened more than 30 years ago, just as Judge Brett Kavanaugh is up for Supreme Court. It also spurred debate on the laws for sex abuse crime reporting, which vary among states.

Christine Blasey-Ford
Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 in Washington. Her attorney’s Debra Katz and Michael Bromwich watch. (Win McNamee/Pool Image via AP)

Ford’s story is likely familiar to thousands of women around the United States, 90 percent of whom don’t report the crimes they are victims of.

That’s according to Tessa, a victim advocacy group based in Colorado Springs.

“Not everybody is ready to make that decision at that point, especially. This is something that’s very traumatic that happens to you,” said Courtney Sutton, safety and support manager at Tessa.

That’s where state laws come in.

In Colorado, victims have 20 years to report a case of sexual assault.

“It gives them that empowerment to say, ‘I’m ready to tell this, because maybe I’m no longer 17. Maybe I’m an adult now, and I’ve been able to build that self-confidence,'” Sutton said.

But the statute of limitations wasn’t always that long.

Just two years ago, the statute of limitations was only 10 years, before two Colorado women were among dozens accusing Bill Cosby of assault in the 1980s.

“They may wait a couple of days. They may wait weeks. They may wait years to even disclose that to anybody, so that’s the important part of having that statute of limitations increased to 20 years,” Sutton said.

Even in that time frame, time is still of the essence.

Victims have three choices for reporting those crimes: a medical report, an anonymous report or a full report that would involve informing law enforcement.

Either way, Sutton said it’s important to do the medical testing within seven days, so that evidence can be collected as soon as possible.

“The longer that you wait, the less options you have as far as that medical exam,” Sutton said.

The extension of the statute of limitations also included a clause that banned people from retroactively using the new law. Gov. Hickenlooper signed the bill in June 2016, and it was officially adopted on July 1, 2016.