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Editorial: Sexual abuse education bill is, sadly, necessary

Abuse education is, sadly, necessary

First Published Mar 11 2014 04:41 pm • Last Updated Mar 11 2014 08:51 pm

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." — Count Leo Tolstoy, "Anna Karenina"

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There are two reasons why anyone would want to eviscerate a bill that would require Utah state officials to develop a program that public and charter schools could use to teach our children about the dangers of sexual abuse and how to avoid them.

One is that it is so repugnant to so many good people to even imagine that such an effort is necessary, that there is a need to broach such a distasteful subject with innocent children.

The other is that you are afraid you will finally get caught.

Of course the overwhelming majority of those who are queasy about HB286, which will be up for final approval in the Utah Senate as soon as Wednesday, are the former.

Those who triggered an emotional debate in the Senate chamber Tuesday by questioning the need for the plan, by seeking to offer the protective lessons only to the children of parents who specifically opt in, are undoubtedly pure of motive. They fear that even the most carefully drawn, age-appropriate approach to the subject might lead children — who only yesterday never thought of such a thing — to start regarding strangers, relatives, even parents, as potential child molesters.

Some senators raised the specter of a meddling nanny state that would sow distrust and paranoia among children and, in so doing, disrespect the sanctity of the family and the rights of parents.

Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, at least for one day. Senators defeated, all too narrowly, an amendment that would have changed the law from an opt-out system for parents who are troubled by the lessons, standard for such sensitive matters, to an opt-in approach that would have destroyed the entire effort.

Despite the courageous testimony of some well-known victims of sexual abuse and Tuesday’s admission by no fewer than three senators that they had been victims themselves, too many good people still refuse to see the horrible risk that sexual predators pose to the children of strangers, of relatives, of, yes, their own.

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The bill, already unanimously approved by both the full House and by the Senate Education Committee, makes the clear-eyed judgment that it is infinitely better that a few people be embarrassed than that one more child be sexual molested. It should be adopted.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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