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Survivors of clergy abuse ask for statute of limitations changes

Three survivors who spoke at a conference Friday shared their stories — and what they hope to see change.

DENVER — It took sixty years before Jeb Barrett felt ready to report sexual abuse by a priest. 

“I was a victim of incest by a teenage uncle when I was young, by a scout master, by a music teacher at the University of Montana and then a priest,” said Barrett.

Like Barrett, Joelle Casteix and Jenny Stith — who spoke at a news conference on the topic of sexual abuse Friday — said they know trauma can manifest for years before someone is ready to come forward.

The conference, which took place at the Denver Press Club, comes two days after a groundbreaking report that named 43 Colorado priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing 166 children since 1950.

RELATED: Report names 43 Colorado Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing at least 166 children since 1950

Casteix said the man who sexually abused her gave her a sexually transmitted disease and impregnated her. 

“We can make sure that what happened to me, and what happened to Jeb and what happened to thousands of other survivor’s, stops,” said Casteix.

"The Catholic Church is using phrases like 'abuse of the past' to describe these horrifying revelations," said survivor Stith. "They would like us to believe that the problem has been solved. This is irresponsible at best and intentional at worst.”

They're all asking for changes in Colorado's statute of limitations. 

The report

“I applaud the investigative work, but it is just the beginning,” said Barrett about the recent report by the Attorney General's office. 

The report dived into the accusations leveled against each priest across Colorado's three dioceses: the Archdiocese of Denver, the Diocese of Colorado Springs and the Diocese of Denver.

RELATED: Priest abuse report: Denver Archdiocese was 'frequently dishonest' to protect itself

The Archdiocese of Denver released the following statement regarding the report: 

"Despicable things happened in our parishes, and at the time there were incredible failures to properly address them. The Archdiocese of Denver in 2019 is much different than it was decades ago. We have taken huge steps to address this issue, and the report documents the dramatic decrease in known substantiated allegations.  We make no claim that the problem is forever solved, but rather are reminded today that we must remain vigilant to ensure our parishes and schools remain safe." 

The statute of limitations

The statute of limitations in Colorado dealing with sex abuse and rape is around 10 years in most cases. That means all but one of the cases mentioned in detail in the attorney general's sexual abuse report cannot be prosecuted.  

In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations was changed following reports of rampant sexual abuse in the Catholic church. The new law gives child victims of sexual abuse more than 30 years to sue their accusers. 

RELATED: Most priests can't be prosecuted, even if they are named in the sex abuse report. Here's why

That's the kind of change Barrett, Casteix and Stith are looking for in Colorado. 

"The policies and procedures mean absolutely nothing unless there is robust and vigorous statue of limitation reform," said Casteix. "Nobody voluntarily polices themselves, it has to be done through the court system."

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