Colorado’s 2023 Legislative Session wrapped on May 8th and as the dust settles, we are looking back to count some significant successes in preventing sexual violence, improving the response to it, and supporting survivors’ access to healing and justice. CCASA’s six priority bills passed and will be signed into law, creating several important shifts in protection and resources for survivors.
In a collaborative effort between CCASA, the Forensic Compliance Team, and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) across the state, we successfully developed and advocated for a bill to fund and establish a tracking system for sexual assault evidence kits (also known as a rape kit) and to update the Sexual Assault Victim Emergency (SAVE) payment program. With the passage of HB23-1199, survivors will be able to check on the status and location of their kit no matter what type of report they do (i.e. law enforcement, medical, or anonymous reporting). Additionally, all law enforcement agencies, hospitals and crime labs in the state will have to enter information into a statewide database to ensure accountability and transparency in their handling and testing kits. Lastly, the SAVE program will get much needed investments to increase efficiency and effectiveness as it supports survivors in covering medical costs related to their assault.
SB23-172, SB23-296, SB23-085
In addition, CCASA strengthened workplace and school protections against sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in coalition with other advocates. SB23-172 updated Colorado’s discrimination law to remove the “severe or pervasive” standard that often prevents victims from getting justice and requires workplaces to have processes and policies in place to protect employees.
Similarly, CCASA led the way on SB23-296, a landmark bill that removes the “severe or pervasive” standard for school-based harassment in K-12 public and charter schools – a first in the nation! And it goes beyond Title IX to create amnesty protections for victims of harassment, to require schools to inform students and parents of their rights and protections from harassment, to require training of school employees on preventing and responding to harassment, and to mandate that schools provide supportive measures to survivors. We also extended the Sexual Misconduct Advisory Committee to continue its work responding to Title IX and preventing sexual assault on campuses with SB23-085. Together, these bills make Colorado a safer place to go to school and work.
With CCASA’s leadership, Colorado joined a growing number of states that now prohibit medical providers, both licensed and those in training, from performing intimate patient examinations (pelvic, rectal, prostate, and breast exams) on unconscious patients unless the patient has given specific informed consent. Not only did HB23-1077 get a lot of media coverage, but it also garnered unanimous support from both chambers of the General Assembly.
CCASA also worked with our partners at Violence Free Colorado and Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance to secure critical funding for victim services (HB23-1107) and create a task force to develop recommendations on training for judges (HB23-1108). We collaborated with the Colorado Women’s Bar Association to reform the judicial discipline process (HB23-1019 and HCR23-1001) and create a Judicial Ombudsman’s Office to serve as a resource for concerns about misconduct in the judicial branch (HB23-1205). We supported protections for people accessing reproductive and gender affirming health care (SB23-188, SB23-189, and SB23-190), protections for people with eating disorders (SB23-176), access to behavioral healthcare for people in crisis (HB23-1200), and updates to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Office we helped to create last year (SB23-054).
All in all, we are incredibly proud of our work. We are grateful to our members, partners, staff, board, and survivors for all of their support in advancing a policy agenda that ensures survivors in Colorado will get the help they need whether they turn to their school, workplace, community-based programs, the criminal-legal system, or the health care system. Thank you!