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Landmark New Colorado Laws Give Survivors Of Child Sexual Assault Shot At Justice

DENVER (CBS4) - Survivors of child sexual assault are hailing two new Colorado laws that are decades in the making.

"We spoke in one voice and lawmakers heard us," said Randy Kady, who was among the survivors who testified in favor of the laws.

They're aimed at holding abusers and the institutions that protect them accountable.

"Yes we can! And, yes we did!" exclaimed state Sen. Rhonda Fields. She gathered with survivors and other sponsors of the legislation at the Colorado State Capitol last week to mark the achievement.

Not only did lawmakers lift the statute of limitations on child sex assault cases going forward next year, they passed a first-in-the nation law for cases going back 60 years. It opens up a three year window for survivors to sue institutions -- like the Catholic church, Boy Scouts and school districts -- if their abuse was the result of a cover-up by that institution. Damages are capped at $387,000 for public entities found guilty of a cover-up due to government immunity. And -- as part of a compromise -- are capped at up to $1 million for private entities.

State Sen. Jessie Danielson led the fight for the law.

"The State of Colorado finally said we're going to stand with kids not the abusers any longer," she said.

"These laws forever changed lives past and moving forward in ways we'll never know," said Kady, who was molested by his first grade teacher more than 40 years ago.

Jeb Barrett leads the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests or SNAP.

"We are at a point in our society where people like you and me are calling for accountability everywhere," he said.

For nearly 30 years, advocates have tried and failed to pass similar laws.

"It was a challenge of all challenges," said state Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, the House sponsor of the legislation. "It took every single one of us many hours, a lot of tears and much pain to get this to the finish line and we are at the finish line today."

Fields credited the survivors who spoke out.

"A lot people are silent when they are assaulted and harbor the secret forever, yet these people behind me ... said enough is enough," she said.

Those people include Ray Desser, who couldn't talk about his abuse for 25 years.

"I want to say to victims who didn't have courage to come up here two things: honesty and integrity. I hope I've represented the voiceless."

Danielson summed up the significance of the laws saying, "Today is about a decades long fight for what's right, the personal dedication of survivors across the state coming forward ... telling their stories. Because of that we now have a policy that protects kids the way they should be protected and gives adult survivors the ability seek healing way they see fit."

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