Governor signs bills addressing ‘difficult issues’

Posted at 12:34 PM, May 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-06 21:02:16-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert signed several bills into law that are meant to tackle issues with sexual violence and pornography in the state.

"I was glad that all these bills were signed together because there is a common thread running amongst these bills. One of the common threads unfortunately is pornography," said community advocate Pamela Atkinson.

One of the new laws addresses what's called revenge porn, an example is when a spiteful ex-boyfriend posts a picture of an ex-girlfriend online.

lawmakers say as electronic communication continues to grow, legal rights are struggling to keep up.

"People would ask us isn't this already against the law and the answer is, ‘No,’” said Rep. Craig Hall.

Victim advocates and lawmakers say the use of pornography is pervasive in Utah and they're finding more cases of children watching it at home. Two of the new laws are meant to educate parents, teachers and kids -- and creates consequences for parents who show their kids porn.

"I've been told of situations where men will sit down with their sons or young boys and say, ‘you need to watch this to become a man.’ That's what this bill is targeting. It gives the judge a tool to use when they are determining whether a parent is fit to raise a child," said Sen. Todd Weiler.

Along with the anti-pornography legislation, the governor signed off on a bill that gives rape victims status updates on rape kits and another takes on the growing issue of human trafficking.

Advocates say these are topics many people don't want to talk about, but those who are willing made an impact on the legislation.

"As soon as one survivor tells their story that empowers other survivors to come forward and share theirs -- and that really opens people's eyes that we have people next door who have been impacted by this, but it also helps people to know that people who have been victimized can thrive," said Alana Kindness, with the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

The signing included the following bills:
HB71 Distribution of Personal Images
HB157 Rape Kit Processing Amendments
HB254 Human Trafficking Victim Amendments
HB286 Child Sexual Abuse Prevention
SB227 Exposure of Children to Pornography