SALT LAKE CITY – Child sexual abuse survivor Deondra Brown testified before a legislative committee Wednesday, urging her support for HB177, which would add the consent form to Utah’s standards of sex education. She revealed that she is also a rape survivor.
“I’m also a rape survivor from my years at Juilliard School in New York City. I’ve never talked about it publicly, and I almost never talk about it in private, “Brown told the House Education Committee.
“I don’t share this today simply because of the shock factor or because of your compassion. Although I have to say over the years that your compassion has proven very moving and I am sharing this with you today because I believe the issues we are discussing reflect my experiences as a child abuse survivor and as a sexual assault survivor in adults. “Said Brown, part of The 5 Browns, a classical piano ensemble that consisted of her, her two brothers and two sisters.
Brown advocated the latest version of HB177, sponsored by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay.
The third replacement for the bill would require consent to be part of state sex education classes and that consent would be taught to students in seventh grade and again in eleventh grade. Under Utah law, parents must elect to have their children take sex education classes that are offered in public schools.
According to the draft law, “Consent means consent to take an action or perform an action that is freely given; informed; knowledgeable; and given by a person who is not legally prevented from consent due to age or lack of capacity. “
The bill also calls for guidance on preventing sexual violence behaviors and resource strategies for sexual assault.
Before the vote in committee, after 90 minutes of emotional debate and testimony, Moss said to committee members: “I want to make it clear that I have no other motive in this law than to protect children. No other motives, no organizations that led me. This is purely personal and my understanding of teenagers and what I think they need to be better protected. “
The draft law was supported by the committee with a number of 6 to 5 votes and passed on to the House for further examination.
HB177 will enable well-educated, skilled, and caring teachers to open the door to conversations with parents to share their values, said Moss, who has grown children and is a retired school teacher.
“If you don’t want you to have this information, you’ve heard over and over that you don’t have to. I just want one of that bill and that is that young people have the communication skills to say yes and no, ”she said.
Brown said learning consent was “an important life lesson that served me well and saved me a lot of pain later. Although I am a grown, successful woman, feelings of guilt and shame still occasionally find their way back into my mind. As with the child abuse I suffered as a child, the sexual assault scars are very real and are now mine. “
However, others urged the committee not to support the bill. Jennie Earl, who is a member of the Utah State Board of Education but said she was not speaking on behalf of the board because it had not yet taken a position on the bill, spoke out against the bill that found the school board to be off adopted new health standards in 2019.
“I encourage you not to make these changes at this point. Most districts are now just implementing the standards we put in place, and we still don’t have time to see the results of those standards, ”she said.
But BYU student Jenna Lawlor urged the committee to support HB177.
“I am a sexual assault survivor. I am a child sexual abuse survivor and have been cared for. The language of care is important for children to understand. If I had known that language, it would have helped me. If I had known the consent language, it would have helped me, ”Lawlor said.
Merrilee Boyack, president of the Empowered Families Coalition, said she was grateful for improvements to the law but still couldn’t support it. The committee heard an earlier version of the bill last week but voted to keep it on committee so Moss can do more work on the legislation.
Boyack questioned the origin of some of the bill’s languages.
“The language used in Under Three (the bill’s third replacement) reflects the language promoted by Planned Parenthood and comprehensive sex education,” she said.
Jill Thackeray, a high school teacher and Moss’ daughter, said she believed she would not have experienced sexual abuse or rape “if I had known what consent was”.
Moss said Thackeray confided in her that she had been sexually abused and assaulted, but she didn’t know her daughter would share the experience with the committee.
Rep. Steve Waldrip, R-Eden, said he was moved by the testimony of the survivors and called on the committee to endorse the bill.
“This does not invite planned parenting, the Pride Center, or anyone else to our schools to teach our children. It’s a red herring, ”said Waldrip.
“This is about enabling children to get information they don’t need by the age of 12. I therefore wish that our children do not need this information. The average age of pornography exposure is falling, not rising; Our children see this on average before they are 9 years old. That’s ridiculous. But it’s the reality, ”he said.
Children need tools that they don’t get from well-intentioned parents, church leaders and other people who care for them, he said.
Rep. Susan Pulsipher, R-South Jordan, said she believes the 2019 state school board approved health standards “give them everything they need to do the things we talked about today. And so will my voice be. ”
But Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, said HB177 is about empowering our children to identify and reject the care and manipulation of people they trust. That is not currently being taught and I think that is the meaning of this bill. “
Ninety-three percent of the perpetrators or perpetrators are known to the victim “and a good majority are family members. One in four girls and one in six boys under the age of 18 is sexually assaulted or assaulted by an adult, ”Kwan said.