by Miranda Collette
SALT LAKE CITY — A bill on sex abuse prevention for children was passed in a Senate committee March 6, with plenty of people present to testify of its importance and how this issue had personally affected them in the past.
Ed Smart, father of sex abuse victim Elizabeth Smart, said, “To me there is nothing more important than our children and getting this information out there. That is not explicit; that is not a sex education class. This information is information our children need and need to understand.”
According to Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, every six minutes a child is abused in the U.S, and only one out of ten abused children speaks out. This bill would provide children, teachers and parents with the opportunity to understand when someone is crossing the line and how to advocate for themselves.
Christian Perry is a mother who had her two daughters sexually abused by her former husband when they were in sixth and fourth grade. She testified that the only reason her kids spoke out was because of a sex abuse prevention program at their local school.
“This crime is so pervasive and complex that a child is helpless against a predator otherwise,” Perry said. “Senators, this bill will save children form abuse … I know it, and I’m grateful for it.”
Gayle Ruzicka, a member of the Eagle Forum, adamantly said that the bill should include a permission slip that must be signed by parents before their child is enrolled in the prevention program. She based her statements on the fact that a similar statute has already been a part of sexual education prevention programs for 20 years.
“All parents should be able to know what’s happening, participate, talk to their children, know where their children are . . . they should not be left out of this,” Ruzicka said. “About one percent (of parents) are abusing their children; those parents will opt out, but good, fit parents have the right to know and the confidence that this will not happen.”
Rep. Mark Madsen, R-Salt Lake, agreed with Ruzicka and pushed an amendment forward, which he said would allow parents to say no.
The motion to amend the bill failed; however, HB286S02 passed successfully without the parent opt-in change. Parents can only opt their children out of the programs if the children request it themselves.
Romero summed the bill up by quoting Elizabeth Smart: “We are taught to look both ways when crossing the street. We are taught to stop, drop and roll when there is a fire. We need to teach children how to say, ‘No, this is wrong, and I am uncomfortable.’”