Senators acknowledge past abuse in emotional debate

Posted at 11:47 AM, Mar 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-11 20:25:33-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A debate over a bill for child sex abuse prevention education turned deeply emotional and personal in the Senate, as three senators stood and acknowledged they had been victims of abuse.

The debate began when Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, made an amendment to House Bill 286, which would have child sex abuse prevention taught in schools. Dayton wanted to change the bill to make parents "opt-in" to having their children taught sex abuse prevention.

That amendment was opposed by many senators on the floor, including Senator Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake City, who noted that sometimes parents are perpetrators.

"You think they will opt in?" she asked.

Then, Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, stood and acknowledged he was a victim of abuse. Osmond said he was abused by a non-family member and said if he had HB 286 when he was a child, his parent's would never have "opted in."

"For me, this is about child safety," Osmond said, speaking against the amendment.

As the debate continued, Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, stood in tears and revealed that as a 7-year-old boy walking to school, he had been attacked.

"I was attacked by a man I did not know," he said.

Thatcher said he yelled, screamed and fought the man off. He supported HB 286.

"This is happening," he said. "If we do not act, it will continue to happen."

He was followed by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, who spoke of a past instance of abuse where a man touched him inappropriately. Weiler also spoke in opposition to the "opt in" provision of the amendment.

"These are horrible stories," Sen. Dayton said, but she defended her amendment to have parents "opt-in" to having their children taught sex abuse prevention education. Other senators, including Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, worried about "the sanctity of the family."

"Are we respecting the parent?" he asked. "Is government here to serve us?"

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, called the amendment for a vote -- it failed.

Outside the Senate chambers, Deondra Brown, a member of the musical group "The 5 Browns" and a survivor of child sex abuse praised the senators for speaking up.

"One in four girls, and one in six boys are victims of child sex abuse," Brown said.

HB 286 passed by a 20-8 vote. It will be up for a final vote as soon as Wednesday. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, told FOX 13 she was confident it would pass and Gov. Gary Herbert would sign it into law.