Local Senator pushes bill for more sexual abuse education in schools
Education has long been a powerful weapon when it comes to sexual abuse prevention. In efforts to promote more effective and substantial education program elementary and secondary schools, Sen. David Watters (D), Dover, is introducing a bill to establish a commission to study sexual abuse education in grades K-12.
Legislatures, representatives of state education, parents and educators will collaborate with experts from health and law enforcement agencies, Sexual Assault Support Service of New Hampshire, and the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence to form a legislative commission which will help determine the proper steps the state needs to take when implementing a new sexual abuse education curriculum.
N.H. Senate Bill 348 is awaiting the approval of the Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee, and the New Hampshire House of Representatives. If the bill passes, a final report from the commission would be due July 1, 2015.
The timing of this bill is not surprising. President Obama, in his weekly address on Jan. 25, addressed the issue of sexual assault. He is quoted as saying an estimated one in five women is sexually assaulted at college.
Watters explains in an interview that a stronger education program in elementary and secondary schools would better equip college students for the kind of circumstances they are going to face.
Currently, about one-third of children in the United Sates are receiving some form of sexual abuse education, and many of the programs are not high-quality reports according to David Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center.
In Stafford and Rockingham the most prominent education program is Safe Kids Strong Teens offered by Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS). However, the educational services offered by this organization only reach a quarter of the children within these districts. Christiana Amesquita the outreach coordinator for SASS stated they are aware their services don't reach all of the children, and they are working on expanding. However, they lack the funding.
"At UNH an estimated one of four women and one of 10 men will have experienced some form of sexual abuse," Maggie Wells, the outreach coordinator for the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) at UNH, said.
Many of these cases go unreported due to the fact that many victims are ashamed of what happened to them, or don't think they can get the help they need. Wells argues that talking and educating people, especially younger people, about abuse can help erase the stigma associate with them.
"Education, particularly at a younger age, might allow possible victims to speak more freely and understand that the abuse isn't something that has only happened to them," Finklehor said. He also mentions that teaching children what is appropriate and not appropriate at a young age can reduce the probability that they will become abusers in the future.
Efforts to promote sexual abuse education, as well as improvements in the justice system, have significantly lowered the rate of sexual abuse over the past 10 years. Between 1990-2010 sexual abuse crimes have seen a 60 percent decline. Hopefully with more education and research these numbers will see a larger decline to come.
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