In Utah, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused in some form by the time they turn 18. This, among many other statistics and anecdotes, was shared this week during a legislative committee hearing. The sobering facts were part of the discussion around H.B. 137, a bill which would have made child abuse prevention education opt-in instead of opt-out.
It led to a broader discussion about sexual abuse of children, which occurs at alarming rates in Utah. Nationally 10 percent of child sexual abuse reports are substantiated and in Utah it is 28 percent - almost three times the national rate.
I serve on the board for Prevent Child Abuse Utah (PCAU), the largest provider of child abuse prevention education in Utah. PCAU works with parents, teachers, children, and the community at large in a shared commitment to end all forms of child abuse in Utah. They use age-appropriate education to help children understand how to identify abuse, and what to do if they ever experience it.
There is often a lot of discussion around sex ed at the legislature. I testified briefly on this bill in my capacity as a board member, clarifying that the child abuse prevention education offered by PCAU is not sex ed. The curriculum is approved by the State Office of Education, and focuses solely on empowering children to protect themselves.
I’m relieved this bill didn’t pass, because moving to an opt-in system could reduce the number of children being educated. And, sadly, sometimes the abusers are the parents. I believe we need to give our children good resources and knowledge so they will be aware if they ever experience abuse. I’m deeply appreciative to the work of PCAU, and other organizations like it. I’ll continue to support efforts to teach our kids how to recognize and report abuse. Adults can also be better educated about child sexual abuse. There is an online course for parents and community members to learn how to better protect their children.
To learn more, visit http://pcautah.org/.