State considers sexual abuse education programs in public schools

Local News

Sex abuse prevention is getting a closer look here in Hawaii.

It can go unnoticed for years and anyone can be a victim. Much of the time, it involves children.

In 2014, 637 victims sought help from The Sex Abuse Treatment Center in Hawaii. Fifty-one percent were children and out of that, 16 percent were under five years old, 34 percent were between 5 to 12 years old, and 50 percent were between 13 to 17 years old. The youngest victim was only one year old.

One way the state is aiming to keep children safe from predators is through a new program that would be offered in schools.

House Bill 1782 would establish and set guidelines for a sexual abuse prevention instructional program for public schools.

Many states across the nation are adding these types of programs to their curriculum. The idea is to teach students how to identify and respond to sexual abuse.

Judith Clark is the executive director of Hawaii Youth Services Network. But her story started when she was in elementary school.

“It wasn’t a stranger who sexually abused me and five other girls in my fourth-grade class,” she said.

Now some lawmakers are pushing for a sexual abuse instructional program that would be implemented in public schools across the state.

“We need to educate everyone, as well as parents, for the signs of grooming, when someone is trolling for kids and when predators are about,” said Rep. John Mizuno, D, Kalihi.

“It is instruction in the classes, and it would be culturally sensitive and age-appropriate and ultimately the DOE would determine the curriculum,” said Rep. Dee Morikawa, D, Niihau, Waimea.

So far, 26 states have programs that teach students about sexual abuse.

The program in Hawaii would apply to students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, and offer a variety of teaching methods and activities.

But before any of this can happen, the bill has to be passed.

“If we wait another year, who knows how many children will be molested,” said Mizuno. “Ten? Twenty? I’ll tell you, if that’s my granddaughter or grandson, I would not like it.”

The Department of Education says it strongly recommends a task force look into this program before implementing anything.

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