Let's Look At This Child Molestation Prevention Law Conservatives Are Stalling In Ohio
For the last few months, the Right has been trying to present its opposition to teaching children that LGBTQ people exist as having something to do with a sincere desire to prevent those children from being abused. They contend that a teacher telling them this, or reading books featuring gay characters, trans characters or unicorns could be used as a pretext for "grooming" the children, for the purpose of sexually abusing them. And they insist this is truly what they believe, and that it has nothing to do with bigotry whatsoever.
Thus, it sure is pretty confusing that conservatives — Christian conservatives in particular — are stalling a bill in Ohio meant to educate children about sexual abuse, what it is and what to do if it happens to them.
The bill in question is Erin's Law, which has already been passed in 37 states and has not so far been particularly controversial. In fact, it was introduced and passed in the Ohio House as a bipartisan measure, but stalled in the Senate because a group of folks called the Center for Christian Virtue is opposed to it. It is one of 125 education-related measures currently stalled in the Ohio legislature, as reported last week by Cleveland.com.
The bill is named for Erin Merryn, an activist and survivor of child sexual abuse who started pushing for it in her home state of Illinois after realizing that "growing up in Illinois, she had experienced tornado drills, fire drills and bus drills; was taught about stranger danger and eight ways to say no to drugs through D.A.R.E., but no one ever taught her how to protect herself from sexual abuse and what to do if a family member or friend molested or raped her."
The goal of the law is to teach:
1. Students in grades preK – 12th grade, age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse and tell a trusted adult
2. School personnel — all about child sexual abuse
3. Parents & guardians — the warning signs of child sexual abuse, plus needed assistance, referral or resource information to support sexually abused children and their families
In Ohio, it would mandate that children in grades K-6 receive age-appropriate child sexual abuse prevention instruction, and that those in 7-12th grade learn about sexual violence prevention. The bill has been in the news a little since it first got stalled, but it certainly deserves renewed attention in light of the fact that Republicans are out there calling everyone "groomers" and acting as if they give one half damn about actual child sex abuse.
The main issue for these Center for Christian Virtue folks is that they want abstinence education taught along with sex abuse prevention — because of course the main thing children who are being sexually abused should be made aware of is that they are going to hell for having sexual relations before marriage. They're okay with the bill being passed, they say, as long as these objectively horrifying amendments are made.
- “The bill should “stress that students should abstain from sexual activity until after marriage.”
- That “age-appropriate” instruction means no visuals showing couples in sexual situations, children shouldn’t role play scenarios or sexual conversations in the K-6 instruction
- That there be no instruction about consent for grades 7-12.
- ”No instruction shall imply that healthy relationships for minor children may include consensual sexual activity.”
- Contraception use cannot be demonstrated.
- ”No instruction shall incorporate materials from groups advocating abortion, marketing contraceptives or cross-sex hormones, or those advocating or condoning sexual behavior among minor children.”
- ”No instruction should advise that any information be withheld from parents, or imply that parents are untrustworthy, or in any way undermine the parent/child relationship or the primary role of the family. Very few parents are guilty of sexual abuse of children, and to imply in any way that information should be concealed from most or all parents is unjust and deeply harmful to children and the family relationship.”
- No teachers/staff may encourage students to join school-based groups that advocate teen sexual identities and behaviors.
It's hard to pick out what is most horrifying here — not talking to children in grades 7-12 about consent, or the insistence that parents do not molest their own children. Honestly it's a tie. I'm half surprised there isn't a bullet point about how it doesn't count as sexual abuse if it comes from your pastor.
Sadly, most of what they are arguing for is moot. Unbelievably, Ohio is still an abstinence-only state, a thing that hasn't changed since it was a plotline on "Glee" twelve years ago, despite myriad studies showing it's not as effective at preventing teen pregnancies and STIs as is comprehensive sex education.
It seems particularly important to note here that these people are actively trying to prevent a bill educating children about sexual abuse for fear that somehow, some way, it will result in those children being gay or trans. They would literally prefer children be molested than find out that LGBTQ people exist, which I think goes to show you exactly how much they care about "grooming."
They don't care about "grooming," they don't care about children getting molested, they don't care about children, period. They care about maintaining power. Power over their children, power over the culture — and they don't care who they have to hurt to get it.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse