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CO lawmakers aim to amend constitution, give child sex assault survivors ability to sue retrospectively

Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act was struck down in June; lawmakers hope to change that with Nov. 2024 ballot
Colorado lawmakers aim to amend state constitution, give child sex assault survivors the ability to sue retroactively
Posted at 7:08 AM, Aug 21, 2023

DENVER — After a 2021 Colorado law was deemed unconstitutional, the original sponsors of the bill now are now trying to amend the state constitution.

The Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act was passed in 2021 and went into effect the following year. It allowed for a three-year window where child sex assault survivors could file civil lawsuits for alleged misconduct ranging from 1960 to 2022.

In June of this year, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled the law is unconstitutional, saying it violates the state's ban on retrospective legislation.

MORE: Survivor "let down" after CO Supreme Court rules law allowing lawsuits for past sexual abuse unconstitutional

However, state lawmakers want to ask Colorado voters if they would like to amend the state constitution and allow child sex assault survivors to sue retrospectively.

“I'm a sexual assault survivor myself, and it took me a long time to talk about it," Colorado state Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D- District 32, said. “I've had very physical responses to my sexual assaults, and I live with them every single day. And while my abusers are not in Colorado, while I am not working for my day in court, I know what it means to want your day in court.”

Michaelson Jenet was an original sponsor of the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act, and said she had to do something when it was struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court.

“The judge said very clearly that this is something that needs to go to the voters. So I said, alright, let's bring it to the voters," Michaelson Jenet explained. “Working with Senator Jessie Danielson and others, we started talking about 'how could we bring this to the voters? What would that look like? And what would we bring to the voters?' We determined that we would bring a very narrow question to the voters of 'can child sexual assault survivors file a claim retrospectively?' And that's it.”

If the proposed amendment passed both the Colorado House of Representatives and Senate, then it would head to the November ballot in 2024. The language will be crafted carefully with survivors.

“I do believe that we'll get the support in both houses. I think that there is overwhelming support for sexual for sexual assault survivors to get their day in court," Michaelson Jenet said. “This gives the voters skin in the game. They get to stand up for sexual assault survivors."

When the law was struck down, Denver7 spoke with Angelica Saupe who filed a case as a result of the act.

“We get excited about the new law, we move forward. We do everything that we can. District court lets us down again. And then from there, we're excited the Supreme Court wants to hear it. And they want to hear my case, right?” Saupe said in June, about the hope she felt when filing her case.

Saupe felt as though she had been let down when the Colorado Supreme Court ruled the retrospective cases were unconstitutional. However, she believes the proposed amendment is great news.

"I am very grateful to the legislature for continuing to pursue justice for victims like me. I am hopeful for a different outcome and am praying that this is the solution so that everyone who’s been or is going through a similar situation can find justice," Saupe said in a statement. "At the end of June, when we last spoke, I was very disappointed and felt defeated after the court's decision."

Saupe hopes the amendment makes the ballot, but is worried something could be missed again. Still, she would fight for the amendment.

"I have gone through this painful process several times already. It creates questions in my mind," Saupe said. "Will my three-year window be closed before the amendment goes into effect? Will I have to start from scratch again since my original case has been dismissed?"

I will continue to fight for justice and will do whatever I can to get the word out to vote on the constitutional amendment that will hopefully allow justice to be served for so many victims in my same position. Although exhausting and definitely not an easy process, I won’t give up. When I decided to tell my story, I told myself that I wouldn’t stop fighting no matter how many times denied because I know that there are so many other people out there suffering the way I am. They deserve a voice, if not through their own, my hope is that they will find solace in mine.
Angelica Saupe, sex assault survivor

Michaelson Jenet hopes survivors will give them one more chance to allow the cases to proceed. She knows the ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court was devastating, but she hopes it's changed by the end of 2024.

"Give us one more shot," Michaelson Jenet said. “This is all about the survivors. This is about their day in court, their opportunity to be heard and their opportunity to get closure. And we fought like mad, because we know what it feels like. And we want them to get that closure. They deserve that closure.”

CO lawmakers aim to amend constitution, give child sex assault survivors ability to sue retrospectively

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