DENVER -- A House bill that would give stalking and sex assault survivors legal power to break their leases to protect their safety passed Colorado's House Judiciary Committee unanimously with bipartisan support Tuesday.
Lawmakers heard testimony from survivors and advocates Tuesday afternoon urging them to vote in favor of HB 17-1035.
"I was held prisoner in my own home, not only by my attacker, but by my lease and landlord," one sex assault survivor tearfully told lawmakers.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora, and Senator John Cooke, R-Aurora, gives domestic violence survivors and victims of stalking and sex assault additional ways, beyond a police report, to prove they are indeed victims. It would allow them to get documentation from a licensed medical professional or through the Address Confidentiality Program.
"Survivors have been asking for some type of legislation like this for years, so this has been a very big issue. It's very difficult to be re-traumatized," said Rep. Jackson.
Shelby Ramirez Martinez said the bill would've helped her immensely two years ago when she left her abuser and he began stalking her.
"I was leaving my apartment complex and I saw my abuser down the street parked off on the side. I thought, 'Oh great, now he knows where I live,'" Martinez said.
Martinez said after months of stalking, she was fearful for her life and the lives of her children. When she went to her leasing office, they wouldn't let her break her lease.
"It almost felt like they didn't really care. It was like it was my responsibility, my situation, not theirs," Martinez said.
Martinez is now happily married. Although she still carries the scars from her past, she hopes her voice will help other survivors find theirs.
The bill now moves to the House floor for a full reading.