Advocates Fight To Teach Sexual Assault Prevention In Schools

Posted at 6:11 PM, Mar 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-09 19:12:34-05

Advocates are fighting for a bill that would teach thousands of children about sexual assault and how to report it, but not everyone supports the bill or its efforts.

It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it's an important talk that advocates are fighting to have in the classroom. Childhood sexual abuse and how to report it.

"If I hadn't been educated on sexual abuse at a young age, I don't know if I would have disclosed," said Heather Neshell, Sexual Assault Center.

When Neshell was 7-years-old, she survived sexual abuse and now she's fighting to teach other kids as well.

"As a state we have an obligation to take care of our children. I think by educating them we're giving them the tools they need. We're empowering to speak out when these issues happen," said Neshell.

It's an issue that effects thousands of children right here in Tennessee. But for so many, sexual assault goes unnoticed, and many kids don't know who they can tell. Advocates are hoping state legislators can change that.

"What this bill is doing is clarifying for teachers is what they can and cannot teach when they are provided child sexual abusive prevention instruction to their students," said Jill Heaviside, Advocates for Women's and Kids' Equality.

There are several child advocacy groups that could teach this material, but most are afraid to actually do it.

In Tennessee, parents can sue outside groups if they come in and teach kids something the parents disagree with. That means most groups have just decided to stay away, advocates say, leaving our kids without the information they need.

"Teachers don't know what they can and cannot teach to their students. A lot of teachers are also over burdened with how much we put on our teachers," said Heaviside.

There is now a bill before the legislature that would allow certain groups to come in and talk to kids about these tough topics.

"It just doesn't make sense that we wouldn't pass this legislation that we wouldn't want to teach our children that we wouldn't want to help them," said Neshell.

But not everyone supports the bill. 

The Family Action Council of Tennessee is opposed to this legislation because it could open the door to organizations like Planned Parenthood being allowed in schools.

Supporters of the bill say the Family Action Council is worried students would be taught something other than abstinence.

The bill comes up in committee on Tuesday.