Legislation proposed by Representative Angela Romero (Democrat – Salt Lake City) that would provide child sexual abuse prevention training and instruction in schools was unanimously passed out of the House Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday morning.
“As a kid, I was told a lot of things,” Smart told the committee. “I was told don’t cross the street without looking both ways. I was told if you ever catch on fire, stop, drop, and roll. I was told if you’re in an earthquake, go stand in the door frame of a building or get in the bathroom or get under a desk, but I was never told what I should do if I was ever being abused.”
The bill, which was substituted to allow for more local control to schools and enable parents to opt their children out of the program, would require a school district or charter school to provide training and instruction on child sexual abuse prevention and awareness to school personnel, parents, and students.
Elizabeth Smart testified about the need for child sexual abuse prevention training in schools.
“As I have been able to go on in my life and I’ve been able to speak and work with different people and just realize how widespread of a problem this is, I have learned that over 80 percent of children who are given choices, who are given options about fighting back, about saying no, about realizing when that line has been crossed, they are able to get away. Over 80 percent. That is a huge percentage.” Smart testified.
[pullquote] “Children need to know that they do have a choice. They need to know that they can say no, that they can tell someone that it’s not their fault. They need to be given those tools so they know how to react.” – Elizabeth Smart[/pullquote] “If you ask me ‘Well, do you think if you had been taught these things before you were kidnapped, would you still have been kidnapped?’ In all honesty, I don’t know, but I do know that I would have been better prepared,” Smart added. “Children need to know that they do have a choice. They need to know that they can say no, that they can tell someone that it’s not their fault. They need to be given those tools so they know how to react.”
Diane Robertson, a concerned parent, testified against the bill. She believes that parents need to know about the program and decide whether it is the right choice for their child. “You’ve got to take your children on an individual basis. A one-size-fits-all program isn’t going to be the right thing and it’s not going to protect all the children. I am against child abuse. I do think we need to do what we can for it and maybe this would be a good program for some children but I do not think it’s a good program if it takes the parents out of the program. Parents need to know.”