August 17, 2022

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The Legal System

Polis signs privacy protections for health care workers, ‘consent’ in Colorado’s sexual assault law | Legislature

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Gov. Jared Polis signed nearly a dozen bills Thursday, including two that will provide privacy protections for health care workers and will add the word “consent” to Colorado’s sexual assault law. 

House Bill 1041 seeks to prevent the doxxing of health care workers and other employees — such as code enforcement officers, child representatives and animal control officers — by adding them to the list of people who can request to have their personal information removed from government websites after they receive threats to their safety.

Prior to being sent to Polis, the bill passed the state Senate in a 23-9 vote and the state House of Representatives in a 52-10 vote.

“Today, we’re standing up to protect our health care workers,” said bill sponsor Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, D-Fort Collins. “Doxxing is dangerous and this law shields everyday Coloradans just doing their jobs from violent threats against them and their family.”

This legislation comes as 31% of hospital nurses in September 2021 reported experiencing an increase in workplace violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by National Nurses United.

Under the bill, personal information includes home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. Threats include any threats made to the individual’s family as well as to their own life. The bill will not prohibit access to records by county officials or certain other individuals if the access is related to a real estate matter.

House Bill 1169, beginning in July, will change Colorado’s legal definition of sexual assault from sexual intrusion when “the actor causes submission of the victim by means sufficient to cause submission against the victim’s will” to when the actor causes sexual intrusion “knowing the victim does not consent.”

The bipartisan bill — sponsored by two Democrat women and two Republican men — aims to clarify the law to help jurors make decisions in sexual assault cases and to help victims understand whether what happened to them legally qualifies as sexual assault. It was unanimously approved by both the Senate and House.

“We want to make it clear and, right now, our language is confusing,” said bill sponsor Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster. “These are very difficult cases and having clarity around consent is imperative for moving forward in our state.”

The current law was written in the 1970s and Colorado is one of only two states in the country that still uses the language. The bill sponsors said 34 other states currently use the language under the bill in their sexual assault laws.

Last year, the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault reported that Colorado’s sexual violence rate is higher than the national average. The organization said 23.8% of women in Colorado had experienced sexual violence, compared to 18.3% nationally.

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