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Lawmaker hopes for ‘mental change’ to prevent child sexual abuse through bill

Jan 8, 2021, 1:53 PM | Updated: 3:52 pm
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(Utah State Capitol Complex. Credit: Paul Nelson, file)
(Utah State Capitol Complex. Credit: Paul Nelson, file)

SALT LAKE CITY– One Utah lawmaker is proposing a bill to encourage discussion on child sexual abuse, hoping to spur conversations that will bring an end to “this awful crime.”

Democratic Rep. Andrew Stoddard of Sandy said this abuse happens more often than people think, in part because it’s uncomfortable to talk about. Through HJR 2, Stoddard said he hopes to offer healing support to victims. 

“The bill doesn’t necessarily have any action points, other than just to provide that encouragement that we as a community, as a society talk more about the effects of child sexual abuse,” he said.

Although the resolution doesn’t initiate immediate action, the legislation would encourage local government to seek increased opportunities to talk about the causes and effects of child sexual abuse. 

Child sexual abuse bill in America and Utah 

The bill states it’s a national issue, as 1 in 9 girls under age 18 experience sexual abuse or assault, according to research from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. The same is true for 1 in 53 boys under age 18. 

In Utah, it’s estimated that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they’re 18, according to a 2007 study from the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. This leads to a cost of roughly $1 billion each year.

The same study showed that all of the victims in the study, roughly 75% were assaulted before they turned 18. 

“It’s something that unfortunately happens more than we want to admit, and I think it happens more often because we’re not willing to talk about it,” Stoddard said. “I think it would be helpful as a community to talk about it to promote healing and make it more accepted that there are victims of this. [Then] they can move on and we can continue to fight this awful crime that’s happening.”

The bill advocates for further study of child sexual abuse to prevent it from happening. According to the legislation, raising awareness is crucial in prevention. 

“I hope for a mental change,” Stoddard said. “As a society, we can talk about these things more so we can deal with them more openly.” 

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Lawmaker hopes for ‘mental change’ to prevent child sexual abuse through bill