COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A new law that went into effect at the beginning of 2022 is bringing new hope to victims seeking justice for experiencing childhood sexual abuse. The Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act will allow some to go after institutions that allegedly turned a blind eye to the abuse.
Maureen Basenberg, the Executive Director of Safe Passage, says before the law, Colorado's statute of limitations put justice out of reach for many victims.
“There is no longer any limitation for a child that has been abused, they can be an adult and seek civil compensation against that perpetrator for harming them,” she said.
The law also allows survivors to sue schools, government entities, or private institutions that knew about the abuse and didn't act or if they tried to cover it up.
“This just hits home when you look at so many of those high profile cases where systems have truly failed victims like the USA gymnastics and everything, those fantastic athletes endured and everyone just looked the other way,” she told KRDO.
According to CNN, at least 70 athletes were abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. In a Senate testimony in September, some of the women criticized the Justice Department for not doing more to punish the FBI agents who "failed to do their jobs."
The USAG's case falls in line with the child sexual abuse statistics provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to data, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys experience child sexual abuse at some point in childhood. Additionally, 91% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child or child's family knows.
Being abused by someone in a position of trust can prevent victims or their families from coming forward.
“That is because that perpetrator has created all sorts of dynamics to help that child feel that what they are doing is normal, hey might threaten their family members, their pet,” Basenberg explained.
Before the new law took effect, Basenberg said she's been working at Safe Passage to give abused children a voice by acting as the point of contact for medical, investigative, and legal services.
When a child does come forward, they have a full team of law enforcement and forensic analysts to conduct an in-depth investigation of their sexual abuse report.
According to court documents, there has already been one lawsuit - a Colorado man is suing the Archdiocese of Denver over sexual abuse he reportedly suffered as a child.
Legal action can be taken in cases between January 1, 1960, and January 1, 2022.
The opportunity to take legal action isn't permanent. According to the law, action must commence before January 1, 2025.
There is no limitation on time to bring a claim for sexual misconduct that happened on or after January 1, 2022.