House passes bills to help protect children from sexual abuse
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House of Representatives has moved a pair of bills forward in an effort to better protect children from sexual abuse.
House Bill 277, sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, would eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases.
HB345, sponsored by Rep. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, would ban anyone convicted of a felony involving child abuse from receiving or renewing a license to teach children in school.
Both bills passed unanimously Monday and will now go to the Senate for consideration.
Emotions ran high as legislators addressed the bills, while victims of abuse looked on from the gallery and representatives shared how abuse has affected them personally.
“In Utah we’re among the worst in protecting and affording protections for victims of child sexual abuse,” Ivory said. “One in four girls and one in six boys will suffer the impacts and damages of sexual abuse on children in their lifetime.”
Ivory also emphasized the importance of removing the statute of limitations, because on average it takes a victim until age 40 to come forward about sexual abuse. Current law only allows a civil action to be filed until age 22.
Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake, revealed he is a survivor of child sexual abuse, and was abused by another student in school.
“Child sexual abuse casts a long shadow. It takes a long time to come to grips with,” Briscoe said.
He added he knows teachers who are in jail for child sexual abuse, and advocated for better teacher training to help avoid potential abuse situations.
Sexual abuse by Utah teachers has been brought to the forefront again this year by the case of Brianne Altice, a Davis County high school teacher who is accused of having sex with three of her students.
“This is where it all started,” Briscoe said, holding up his cell phone. “Boundary violations … we don’t prepare teachers very well for that first interesting tweet or email message they get from a student.”