The Denver Post – Voice of the Rocky Mountain News

Law lets abuse victims seek redress in pensions

By Christopher Lopez
Denver Post Staff Writer

A former Colorado woman who won a landmark $2.3 million judgment against her abusive father is celebrating a new law allowing her and other victims to collect compensation from their abusers’ federal pensions.

An elated Sharon Simone joined U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder yesterday in Denver to announce that President Clinton had signed the Child Abuse Accountability Act, which allows victims to garnishee pensions to collect court-ordered damages.

“This is so gratifying for me,” said Simone, who flew from her Boston home to make the announcement. “This is a success story and it should be broadcast very loudly.”

Simone and her sister, Susan Hammond, were awarded the judgment by a Denver District Court jury on May 16, 1990, in a decision that opened the way for other abused children to sue parents years after the abusive relationship has ended.

After that decision, Simone spent four years working on the federal legislation. She testified before congress, worked on the bill with Schroeder, a Denver Democrat, and now has reason to celebrate.
“My voice has been heard,” she said, “and it feels good.”
Law allows redress in pensions

Simone’s father, Edward Rodgers Jr., is receiving a federal pension as a former FBI agent. At one time, Rodgers also was a nationally known child abuse expert because of his work as an investigator for the El Paso County district attorney’s office in Colorado Springs.

Since the court decision, Simone and her sister have been able to collect only a small amount of the damages awarded to them.

At one point, they thought their father had fled the country to avoid paying. But they were later able to trace him back to Colorado.

Simone said she’ll receive a monthly check for about $300 from her father’s pension because of the new law, which allows victims to receive up to 25 percent of their abusers’ federal pensions.

“The really satisfying part,” Simone said, is that her father won’t be able to escape the judgment. “The federal government intervened and said, ‘He will be held accountable.’”

Simone regularly speaks on child abuse. Earlier this year, CBS aired a movie titled “The Ultimate Betrayal,” which documented the physical and sexual abuse Simone, Hammond and their five siblings allegedly suffered at the hands of their father.

Simone’s three brothers always have defended their father, acknowledging that he was strict but saying he was not abusive to the point the girls were sexually molested.

The television movie helped convince members of Congress that the law was necessary, Simone said. After it aired, hundreds of viewers wrote their representatives to support the bill.

“You always hear that your voice doesn’t count, but in this case, it did,” Simone said.