COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133
Senator Joan B. Lovely
2nd Essex District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 4, 2019
Senator Lovely Testifies on Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Bills before Joint Committee on Education
(BOSTON) – Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem) testified today before the Joint Committee of Education on her Senate No. 312, An Act stopping harm inflicted by the exploitation of life and development (the SHIELD Act), and Senate No. 313, An Act relative to preventing the sexual abuse of children and youth. The hearing featured advocates, members of law enforcement, and survivors of sexual abuse who support these bills.
Senator Lovely explained, “These bills are my top legislative priorities because I am committed to strengthening the Commonwealth’s laws to protect Massachusetts children and youth from sexual abuse.”
According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16% of men and 25% of women have experienced unwanted sexual contact with an adult or older child when they were children. Additional studies show that 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males reported having experienced some form of sexual abuse or exploitation before the age of 18. Yet, an estimated 80% or more of child sexual abuse cases are never reported to law enforcement or child protective services. S.312 would effect changes in training, education, and reporting procedures that will increase awareness and prevent more children from becoming victims. S.313 seeks the same end as S.312 by improving some key criminal statutes, including closing an existing loophole that currently allows teachers and youth-serving employees to claim consent when conducting relationships with students and youth over 16.
“The Office of the Child Advocate supports these bills because they will provide additional protections for the Commonwealth’s children by requiring mandated reporters who work with children to be properly trained in order to fulfill their obligations of filing reports of abuse or neglect with the state’s child protective services agency,” said Child Advocate Maria Z. Mossaides.
“In Chelsea, sexual abuse of children is an all too frequent occurrence,” stated Chelsea Police Chief and President of Mass Major City Chiefs Brian Kyes. “We need to do all we can to be proactive to recognize and prevent this behavior whenever possible. These bills take a giant step toward accomplishing that goal.”
Suzin Bartley, Executive Director of the Children’s Trust, the Commonwealth’s Child Abuse Prevention agency, and co-chair of the Legislative Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, testified, “The guidelines called for in S.312 mirror the recommendations that Legislative Task Force report called on all child and youth serving organizations to implement. Those recommendations, if fully implemented, make it harder for a pedophile to get hired, provide clear codes of conduct that help staff understand grooming behavior, and requires comprehensive training for school systems and parents so they are more aware and better prepared to deal with a pedophile trying to work with children.”
Jetta Bernier, Director of MassKids, a private child advocacy organization, said, “Instead of reporting suspected abuse to law enforcement or the Department of Children and Families as the law requires, some schools faced with the sexual misconduct of an employee choose to negotiate a confidential agreement that permits the employee to resign in good standing, and, in some cases, ensures him or her a positive job recommendation and other perks. Fear of negative publicity, or of legal actions against the school by parents if the abuse were to be made public, often fuel this practice. As a result, abusers are allowed to gain employment in other schools where they continue to pose a sexual threat to children.”
“S.312 and S.313 are comprehensive pieces of legislation that address an uncomfortable and difficult topic in our society,” stated Senator Lovely. “I am proud to champion this cause and invite others to advocate for these much needed improvements to our general laws. Children deserve the strongest and most effective protections we can offer as a society, and I am confident that leaders on Beacon Hill will deliver.”