In the early 1990’s when I began my quest for justice as a victim of child sexual exploitation by my school teacher, the only remedy available to me was statutory rape charges for child sexual assault. At that time, the statute of limitations (SOL) for child sexual abuse was 6 years from the date the child turned 18. I was far too young and tender to know even the first step in finding justice, and I was still terrified to tell anyone about what happened to me. By the time I was old enough and healed enough to do anything about it, the statute of limitations had expired.
In 2003, over 20 years after being trafficked, my husband and I saw in the news that several victims of sexual assault by priests were finding justice against the Catholic church. We wondered why this same justice should not apply to someone assaulted by a school teacher and decided once again to explore finding justice for my situation. We contacted several lawyers and ran into the same issue: the SOL had expired and I had no evidence. The next step was to contact the news stations to see if they would help. One station suggested we contact the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA). Looking back, that connection completely changed the trajectory of my life. At that time, CCASA was supporting a bill to lift the SOL and asked me to provide testimony in support of the bill. Unfortunately, the bill never made it out of committee so I did not have the chance to testify. That same year, my husband died so I put everything on hold to raise our children.
Fast forward to 2011, and I reconnected with CCASA when I met the then policy director, Karen Moldovan. She was very supportive and suggested that I become a member of the survivor task force at CCASA. She gently told me that it did not obligate me to anything, but if something came up that I might be interested in, I could let them know. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to be on the list.
In 2014, Karen contacted me about an opportunity to serve as a survivor representative on the Colorado Human Trafficking Council. My first reaction was, “Well, that’s not me. I wasn’t trafficked”. Then Karen read me the definition and let’s just say, it busted my heart wide open for healing. In 2015, I was appointed by the Governor as a survivor representative to the Council in January 2015, and I now serve as Vice Chair.
While the opportunity to serve on the council is a great honor, the SOL still remained in place until this past year when CCASA and then Policy Director Raana Simmons, sponsored Senate Bills 21-073 and 21-088, the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act. I again had the opportunity to testify in support of these bills. The Act did two things: SB21-073 lifted the SOL for child sexual abuse, and SB21-088 holds accountable institutions who knew or should have known that sexual abuse was happening in their institution.
Being given the opportunity to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee in support of both bills was both soul-crushing and an honor. It truly was the most difficult part of my journey and at the same time it was incredibly validating. When SB 21-073 passed, I literally fell to my knees and sobbed. All the years that my late husband and I tried to find justice came flooding back. I am so proud that no survivor will ever have to hear the words, “I’m sorry, we cannot help you, the statute limitations has expired.” I helped change a law that will change lives and that is truly empowering and heart-opening. For nearly three decades CCASA has been a steady force that never gives up on survivors, and for that I am forever grateful.