Lawmakers seek to amend Colorado constitution to help sexual assault survivors

DENVER (KDVR) — After the Colorado Supreme Court ruled a state law about child sexual abuse was unconstitutional, lawmakers are attempting to get the legislation back in place — this time, with the help of voters.

State lawmakers hope to change the state constitution to help victims of childhood sexual assault achieve some kind of justice.

“The data now tells us that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 13 boys — and those are conservative numbers — will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday,” said Kathryn Robb, executive director of Child USAdvocacy.

Robb and other advocates joined Colorado state lawmakers on Wednesday as they announced a new resolution to amend the state constitution.

Back in 2021, Colorado lawmakers passed a bill that became a state law designed to help survivors of childhood sexual assault seek retribution for abuse that happened at youth programs dating back to 1960.

“I’m proud that this legislature listened to the victims and took action. Unfortunately, the state Supreme Court disagreed with our view that the language was constitutional,” said Sen. Jessie Danielson, a prime sponsor of the 2021 bill and the new resolution.

Retroactive child sex abuse law struck down

The Colorado Supreme Court overturned the state law in a decision last summer, saying it violated the state constitution’s ban on retroactive legislation. Now, sponsors from the 2021 measure and advocates are hoping to get legislation back into law through a different method.

“That’s why we are here today. We’re just not going to tolerate this, and I know the state of Colorado will agree with us and pass this measure,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields, another prime sponsor of the 2021 measure and new resolution.

If passed, the new resolution at the Capitol will put a question on this year’s statewide ballot asking voters if lawmakers should be allowed to create a law like the one previously passed.

“The constitution really only addresses the ability to do something or not. The way that it is done is something that is determined by law,” said Brie Franklin, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. The group played a major role in passing the initial effort and is supporting the new measure as well.

“The constitution just opens the door, and the legislators have to write law that makes it possible,” Franklin said.

The new resolution has bipartisan sponsorship this year, just like the original bill. It is expected to pass and make its way to voters with plenty of support.

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