The likelihood of reporting a sexual abuse crime can be affected significantly by the relationship between the victim and the offender. If the offender is a person in a place of authority in the community, such as a church official, it can be difficult to come forward.
The younger an individual is when the crime occurs can make speaking out even more difficult. Understanding your rights and moving forward in a timely manner can be challenging if you don’t know where to start or who to trust.
The good news is that victims of clergy sexual abuse in Colorado now have the time they need to come forward. Below, we’ll discuss how the passing of Senate Bill 21-073 can give you the opportunity to seek the justice you deserve.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations for Minors
A statute of limitations refers to an amount of time for bringing forward certain kinds of legal action against the offending party. For example in Colorado, there is no time limit for claims of sexual abuse made against a child. If you or a loved one was abused under the age of 18, you can still come forward many years later to receive justice.
What is Senate Bill 21-073?
Colorado made historical news on January 1, 2022, when the senate ruled in favor of passing Bill 21-073, allowing for the statute of limitations for a minor to no longer exist. This is monumentally historic news because, under the previous law, minors had only 6 years to bring a civil claim to court.
Senate Bill 21-073 defines sexual misconduct and removes the time limit for reporting a civil claim based on sexual misconduct against a minor. The bill also removes the underage victim from establishing which act in the series of abuse was the cause of injuries. Minors with disabilities or a special relationship with the perpetrator may also now come forward if the abuser is dying or dead.
Under the previous law, a statute of limitations existed. A victim could not recover any damage requests if they brought civil actions alleging sexual misconduct older than 15 years since the victim turned 18. The victim could also not make claims against an abuser who was dying or deceased.
Defining Clergy-Related Claims of Sexual Abuse
According to police reports, 93 percent of underage victims know their abuser.
- 59 percent were acquaintances
- 34 percent were family members
- 7 percent were strangers to the victim
Unfortunately, clergy members can be among that 59 percent of abusive acquaintances.
Clergy members include:
- Other religious leaders
Oftentimes we look toward clergy members as trusted advisors and mentors and rely on them for support in our times of need. Many churches also provide free counseling services run by clergy for church members who cannot afford traditional counseling or therapy. These circumstances can put abusive clergy members in a unique position of power that they use to exploit their victims.
Clergy members are prohibited from having ANY sort of sexual contact with clients they’re counseling – even if it is consensual. If the person is under 18 years old, they are considered a minor, and the crime becomes more serious.
With Bill 21-073, someone who was a minor at the time of the incident may come forward at any time to sue their offender.
Contact Our Attorneys for Help with a Clergy Sexual Abuse Case
At Denver Trial Lawyers®, our experienced team has provided support and developed creative strategies to prosecute criminal claims. Our team has earned a positive reputation throughout the Rocky Mountain Region as advocates for survivors of sexual abuse, assault, and exploitation, giving them a voice against members in their community such as clergy, educators, and employers who abused their positions of authority and trust.
At Denver Trial Lawyers®, we provide completely confidential consultations. Please don’t hesitate to contact us: (303) 647-9990.