DENVER (CBS) - The state legislature passed a bill which allows survivors of sexual assault to sue their perpetrators no matter how much time has passed. The bill eliminates the statute of limitations in civil cases.
Survivors have been trying to pass the bill for 30 years, telling their stories year after year. This year, a state lawmaker was among them.
"I was 14 when I was raped, and I remember every single moment," Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet said on the floor of the House. For years, she told no one. She broke her silence as her bill appeared in danger of failing. She says sexual assault causes lifelong trauma.
"For the first time since I was 14, and I'm 48, I am able to do things I haven't been able to do because of the attack. Every relationship - every single relationship - after that experience was impacted."
Yet, she says, her abuser will never have to pay. In Colorado, survivors of sexual assault have six years to bring a civil suit. Children have six years after their 18th birthday.
Michaelson Jenet's bill eliminates the statute of limitations, starting January of next year.
"I know what I have lived, and what it cost me, and I want to make sure people who are victimized after me don't have to live through what I did."
The Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which was instrumental in the bill's passage, says the statute of limitations protects perpetrators by allowing them to run out the clock. It says most survivors don't come forward for decades and need thousands of dollars in therapy.
Opponents, including Rep. Rod Bockenfeld, argued survivors shouldn't be able to sue after their perpetrator had died, that they should have a higher burden of proof than exists in other civil cases.
"It's not fair when someone cannot defend themselves against an accusation that may or may not be true."
But Rep. Matt Soper, co-sponsor of the bill, said every other creditor could collect.
"We would be creating a process where sexual assault victims would be treated differently than plaintiffs in other types of cases."
Most lawmakers agreed. The bill passed the House with six representatives voting against it. It passed the Senate unanimously. Senators Jessie Danielson and Don Corum sponsored the bill in the Senate.
While the bill won't help Michaelson Jenet, she says, other survivors will finally have a law that validates and protects them too.
"I feel so honored that I was able to help bring this to the finish line."
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