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New law allows child sex assault survivors to sue attacker, institution for abuse

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Posted at 8:35 AM, Feb 01, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS — A new law is opening doors for childhood sexual assault survivors.

The Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act ends the six-year statute of limitations on reporting sexual abuse. The law creates a three-year window in which victims can bring civil claims for assaults that allegedly happened between 1960 and 2022. There is no time limit on future claims for assaults that happen after Jan. 1, 2022.

"It's meant to help those who have survived child sexual abuse to regain their voice that they had been denied for a long time. The statute of limitations caused them to not be able to seek reparations when they had been victims of this crime," said Maureen Basenberg, Executive Director of Safe Passage Children's Advocacy Center.

She says reporting isn't the first thing on the mind of a survivor.

"The first thing that is going through your mind is possibly guilt and shame. The opposite of reporting, not wanting anyone to find out, not wanting that secret to be told," said Basenberg.

Secrets that often aren't unearthed for years, sometimes decades, but the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act is giving survivors renewed hope in getting justice.

"It's another piece of their healing to be able to have the courage to recognize the damages in a physical manifestation of what they endured," said Basenberg.

The new law allows for people who were sexually assaulted as children to bring lawsuits against both the attacker and, in some cases, school, youth organization, or government entity.

"It puts them on notice that this stuff is what they need to be sweeping for, controlling, screening for. This is something that you're not going to be able to sweep under the rug and the statute of limitations is going to expire," said Stephen Longo, The Longo Firm.

Longo says it makes it easier for survivors to get justice for the sexual abuse. It provides a waiver for sovereign immunity for government entities involved in the abuse.

"Sovereign immunity would otherwise be in play for these cases. If you were a victim or had a civil case against the government, you would have to fight around sovereign immunity to bring your claim. What this law is saying no, the governmental entity whether it's a school or anything else is not going to be protected," said Longo.

"It should be a reminder when we look at this law, as a community it is our responsibility to take this seriously," said Basenberg.

While Safe Passage focused on children, their doors are open for adult survivors to tell their stories or volunteer to help others. Find out more information on their website.