DENVER (CBS4) – A 78-year-old Denver man who survived sexual abuse as a child is now fighting for a law cracking down on people who know about abuse, but don’t report it. Certain professions — teachers, clergy, doctors — are required, by law, to report suspected child abuse or face charges.
Colorado has an 18-month statute of limitation on mandatory reporting, meaning if a person keeps the abuse secret for 18 months, they can’t be prosecuted even if they concealed it purposefully.
“18 months just isn’t enough,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, the sponsor of a bill which would extend the statute of limitations to three years. “We have a history of sexual crimes being reported to mandatory reporters who have taken different actions other than reporting them to police or human services to get the child the help they need.”
Paul Quinn is among those supporting the bill. Sixty-three years after he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest, he remains tormented. Talking about the abuse is so traumatic, he says, it took him 32 years to open up.
“We’re not talking about repressed memories here. I always remembered it. I just couldn’t talk about it. There’s a shame to it. There’s a fear to it.”
The priest, Eugene Clarahan, would go on to abuse other kids before being prosecuted decades later. The church, Quinn says, covered it up.
“I still remember one note in the file, handwritten from the Bishop, ‘Gene, I got a pack of cash ready for you. The DA called. Something about a kid. Get out of town.'”
He says mandatory reporters — like church leaders — need to be held accountable. He’d like to see no statute of limitations, but says three years is better than 18 months.
“Once your sexual persona is shattered as a child, it takes the rest of your life to get it back. If they did what they’re supposed to do when the child reported the sexual abuse, the child would be saved additional sexual abuse; other children would be saved from sexual abuse because childhood rapists, childhood sexual abusers never do it once.”
The Colorado District Attorneys’ Council — representing all of the state’s elected DA’s — backs the bill.
“We have to have the ability to hold these folks accountable because when they don’t act and they rob us of that opportunity to intervene, those children continue to suffer at the hands of their abusers and additional children become victims,” said Amanda Gall, the DA Council’s sexual assault expert.
The bill started in the Senate where it initially called for a five year statute of limitations. After pushback from the teachers’ union, lawmakers amended the bill to make it a three year statute of limitations.