Sexual abuse survivors speak out for more education

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Among more than a dozen activists demanding better education in schools on sexual abuse, survivors told their stories, issuing an ultimatum to lawmakers to prevent more children from being victimized.

“Just as we teach addition and subtraction, we need to teach children to express themselves,” said Alicia Zimov, a survivor of her father’s sexual abuse with her sister. “They need to know that they are not alone; they are not at fault; and they won’t get into trouble.

For Zimov and other survivors of sexual abuse, a bill before the Ohio Senate is an opportunity to educate, empower and end sexual abuse by reaching out to students in schools and schools. teachers who might report abuse if they knew the signs. .

House Bill 105 was introduced in April and, if passed, would require public school districts, community schools and STEM schools to provide ‘age appropriate education’ in sexual abuse prevention. for grades K-6 and prevention of sexual violence for grades 7 to 12 In-service training of teachers and other professionals will also be required by the bill.

The bill would also inform parents of the curriculum and educational materials for dating violence prevention and sexual violence prevention classes, and require the Ohio Department of Education to provide links to sexual violence prevention programs on its website.

Zimov said his father was sentenced to life in prison, she told the Senate Committee on Primary and Secondary Education, where the bill is currently under consideration, and others have said that although they had seen justice for their attackers, a prison sentence was not enough. to deal with the trauma.

The Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers said while many believed COVID-19 school closures would reduce reports of abuse, the network has seen an increase from 9,000 in 2019 to 9,600 in 2020 .

“It was no coincidence that when schools resumed face-to-face classes, we saw an increase in referrals to our offices,” said Caitlin Bentley, statewide director of programming for ONCAC, during the committee hearing.

However, the number of sexual abuse cases may be higher because not all counties in Ohio have a child advocacy center to report abuse to.

“Given our ongoing crises of adding opioids (and) mental health, we owe ourselves how many unseen victims are out there,” Bentley said.

A report from the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 1.6% of children between the ages of 12 and 17 had been raped or sexually assaulted, and a study from the Crimes Against Children Research Center showed 1 girl in 5 and 1 in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse.

Miranda LeBoeuf, of Washington County, is a survivor of years of sexual abuse by her father, but has also undergone years of treatment to learn the true impact of the abuse. Now that she has children of her own, she wants to watch her children go to school knowing what is wrong with adult and peer treatment.

“I firmly believe that if I had learned personal body safety as a young child, my life would have been completely different,” said LeBoeuf. “If I had had the words and the knowledge to really know what was happening to me, then maybe I could have prevented other victims as well.”

Rape survivor Jordan Potts pleaded with the committee to “feel the urgency that we survivors feel” but also to stay away from the language that places the burden on those sexually abused.

“I want to be clear, I wish I had been better prepared to deal with the violence I faced, but even more I wish the boys who raped my body had been educated about the harm they were facing. were doing, ”Potts said.

Jaclyn Scanlan, a mental health therapist now working in school-based therapy, said it was important to know that 93% of sexual abuse in America happens at the hands of someone other than the survivor. knows (according to the National Rape, Abuse & Incest Network), and sex offenders do not discriminate in finding their victims, so schools must be prepared to fight back.

“When you wonder if it is the school’s responsibility to do this, the answer is ‘yes’,” Scanlan told the committee. “Because our schools can be a refuge from these abuses. Our schools can reach more young people to spread this vital information.

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