Christian conservatives are lobbying against a child sex abuse prevention bill

A girl huddled in a corner in fear
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Christian conservatives in Ohio are lobbying against Erin’s Law, a bill that was written to prevent child abuse.

The bill calls for “age appropriate” education for K through sixth-grade students about child abuse, which supporters say is important since many child abuse victims don’t understand or know how to talk about what is happening to them. The bill would also require education for grades seven through 12 about sexual violence.

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It passed last summer by the state house with only eight Republicans opposing it.

“Who would not want to protect children?” said Ohio Rep. Scott Lipps (R).

The Center for Christian Virtue is lobbying against the bill, though, saying that parents should be allowed to opt out of sex abuse prevention education. The group has put forward its own bill, which would discourage teachers from implying that parents aren’t always trustworthy.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that one-third of the perpetrators of sexual abuse are family members, and advocates of Erin’s Law are opposed to allowing parents – including those who sexually abuse their own children – to pull their kids out of education about sexual abuse.

“Any effort to attach parental consent to this law is another layer of perpetuation of violence, removing power, control, agency and autonomy from the victim,” said Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence President Rosa Beltré. “The vast majority of survivors of child sexual assault express that their victimization occurred at the hands of a caretaker, an adult they trusted, a parent.”

Moreover, the Center for Christian Virtue wants Erin’s Law education to be abstinence-only, even though it’s not about sex, it’s about sexual abuse. The conservative Christians say that state law requires all sex education in the state to teach that abstinence is the best way to prevent sexual transmitted infections and prevent pregnancy.

“If we’re going to do that in the state of Ohio, it’s got to be abstinence-related,” said David Mahan of the Center for Christian Virtue. “It’s not opinion. It’s law.”

The Center for Christian Virtue claims that it opposes child sex abuse.

“It’s not like if we oppose [Erin’s Law], we’re for abusing children, which is absolutely ridiculous,” said Mahan.

The group’s counter-proposal would only allow education about child abuse to start in middle school and would explicitly ban any discussion of contraception. It would also require abuse prevention materials to state “that sexual activity is only appropriate in marriage,” even though the victims of abuse aren’t even making choices about sex when they are being abused.

“It absolutely guts Erin’s Law,” Lipps told the Columbus Dispatch. “There’s no reason that we would pass this bill.”

State Rep. Brigid Kelly (D), who is trying to get Erin’s Law passed, said that it’s “bipartisan” with “a lot of support from families, from survivors, from advocates.” She says that Erin’s Law should be passed as it is, not the Center for Christian Virtue’s bill.

The opposition comes as conservative parents across the country protest school boards, demanding schools stop teaching about LGBTQ people and racism. Lawmakers and school board members have called for banning – and sometimes burning – books that they say aren’t appropriate for minors, arguing that parents should have total control of what information their children have access to.

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