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New Bill Goes After Institutions That Cover Up Child Sexual Abuse, Giving Survivors Chance For Justice

DENVER (CBS4)- Survivors of child sexual assault in Colorado may, for the first time, have legal recourse even after the statute of limitations expires.

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"Anybody in my position deserves justice," says Randy Kady, who was 7 years old when his first grade teacher sexually molested him.

"He would call me over and sit me on his lap… and when you're 7, you don't really understand what's going on."

According to police reports from 1973, Kady was one of 32 young boys the teacher admitted to molesting.

"I was 7, I had no concept, no voice. Now that I can process it with an adult mind, I know have a better understanding of what happened. I have a voice and I want my story told."

A story that, today, lives only in old newspaper clippings and police reports that Kady discovered after his mom's death, "I started reading them and I was just shocked."

It was the first time he learned of the school district's response. In interviews with Aurora police, the principal and assistant superintendent admitted they didn't report the teacher to law enforcement after learning of the abuse. They say the teacher told them, "There's no sense in denying it." and even provided a list of victims. They agreed to let him resign "for personal reasons" if he received mental health counseling.

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It wasn't until a parent went to police that the abuse became public. The assistant superintendent told the Aurora Sun newspaper, "Why was it our (the school's) responsibility to file a complaint?"

"It's documented that they didn't want anything to do with it, they wanted to wash hands of it, that they didn't care about 30 kids molested, that angers me the most," says Kady.

And yet there is nothing he can do now. While other states have opened up windows for retroactive claims, in Colorado, once the statute of limitations expires for an existing law, the constitution prevents retroactive claims.

But it doesn't stop lawmakers from creating a new claim not covered under current law, with no statute of limitations.

That is what state Sen. Jessie Danielson, a Democrat representing Jefferson County, plans to do. Under a bill the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) helped her draft, survivors of child sexual abuse could sue individuals or institutions - for triple the damages - if their abuse was the result of a cover up, no matter how long ago the abuse happened.

"These organizations and their youth programs were trusted by families and parents to protect children and instead they covered up child sex abuse. We have a fundamental obligation to hold them accountable to bring healing to these survivors, and also prevent this behavior from happening in the future," says Danielson.

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Raana Simmons, Executive Director of CCASA, says the bill is narrowly tailored to target bad actors who knew, or should have known, about the abuse and did nothing to stop it.

"When institutions choose to protect their power and profit by concealing the truth, the coverup is something completely different and distinct from the sexual abuse that the child experienced in the first place," said Simmons.

Unlike other civil liability laws, the bill prevents school districts from using government immunity to avoid damages.

"What this is, we believe, is a path forward to lift the veil of secrecy, to protect our communities, and to make sure that survivors have access to the single system that can provide them with the monetary relief to recover from trauma."

Kady's first grade teacher was charged with one count of sexual abuse and received probation. The school district, he says, was also culpable and should be held accountable, "It's not right that a school covers up sexual abuse of 30+ kids by one teacher."

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In addition to creating a new claim for child sexual abuse as the result of a cover-up, Danielson is also introducing a bill that removes the statute of limitations for all sexual assault claims going forward.

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