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South Jordan Journal

State and county leaders prioritize child sexual abuse education

Apr 05, 2024 12:58PM ● By Aimee Winder Newton

The numbers are startling…one in seven Utah children are sexually abused before they turn 18 and there is a 91% chance they are abused by someone they know and trust. The chances are high that a child in your social circle is being sexually abused. Children tell an average of three adults that they are being hurt before someone helps them. It is critically important that we believe children if they tell us, and not let our surprise or fears get in the way of protecting them. 

I firmly believe that when a society is committed to the healthy development and protection of children, it significantly contributes to the future prosperity and well-being of that society. As a Salt Lake County Councilmember, in my role at the State in the Office of Families, and as a former board member for Prevent Child Abuse Utah, I’ve been committed to supporting policies to protect children. 

This past legislative session, I took particular interest in bill SB 205—a bill dedicated to protecting children from the harms of sexual abuse by expanding in-classroom sexual abuse prevention education for all of Utah’s students in kindergarten through sixth grade. I’m thrilled to say that it passed with unanimous support.

This bill was initiated by The Policy Project, Malouf Foundation, Saprea and Prevent Child Abuse Utah. It was included in Gov. Spencer Cox’s budget. Legislators recognized that child sexual abuse is a bigger problem in our state than most people realize and were committed to protecting children.

Currently, in the state of Utah, only 11% of our elementary students receive any type of sexual abuse prevention education. Studies show that early intervention can help children recognize inappropriate behaviors, and learn to understand boundaries which will empower them to speak up if they experience or witness abuse—likely preventing further victimization or long-term psychological harm.

Furthermore, in-classroom prevention education provides parents with the resources they need to engage in conversations about safety and boundaries with their children and gives teachers the tools to recognize distress signals from children and be able to guide students to proper resources.

Prevention strategies can break the cycle of abuse and protect vulnerable children from revictimization. Calling and reporting abuse is another way you can help break this cycle. Utah law requires any person who has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect to immediately notify Child and Family Services or law enforcement. Abuse of a child can be physical, emotional, or sexual and can be reported at 1-855-323-3237.

As Utahns, we should be doing everything we can to protect our children. Childhood trauma impacts both mental and physical health well into adulthood. Healthy children and healthy adults are a top priority!