AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A 2009 Texas law requiring child sexual abuse prevention education for pre-K through 12th-grade students and teachers is serving as a model for legislation in Congress.
Called the “Jenna Quinn Law,” the bill filed by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is named after Jenna Quinn, a child sexual abuse survivor from Texas. Her sister, Stephanie Quinn-Hrabel, spoke alongside Cornyn, law enforcement and educators at the Center for Child Protection in Austin Wednesday to highlight the importance of the statute in Texas and how she hopes it can serve as a model on a federal level.
“Our family was not an at-risk family,” Quinn-Hrabel said. “We were in a very loving home, a very supportive home. We attended a private school. We loved playing in sports teams, being a part of extracurricular activities.”
“Jenna, we never imagined, would be abused by our best friend’s father,” she said.
Quinn-Hrabel said her sister suffered in silence due to fear, threats and intimidation.
“Everyone close to Jenna didn’t know what to do to help her,” she said. “She exhibited all kinds of symptoms and we didn’t know where they’re coming from. We saw her grades fall, her self-esteem deteriorate.”
According to the Center for Child Protection, one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. The Jenna Quinn Law would authorize grant funds for training and education of educators, caregivers and other staff who work with kids on how to prevent, recognize and report child sexual abuse. The funds would also help with the training and education of students so they can recognize the signs and symptoms in their peers.
Children are referred to the Center for Child Protection exclusively through law enforcement and Child Protective Services when a child has experienced physical abuse or neglect, made an outcry of sexual abuse or witnessed a violent crime. The non-profit’s top priority is prevention and has a team that specifically helps with educating others on how to protect children. The center is also a part of a larger network – the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas. Texas has 71 children’s advocacy centers across the state and partners with local communities and agencies that investigate and prosecute child abuse. The mission of the network is to provide every child victimized by sexual abuse in Texas has access to safety, justice and healing.
“We know we will always fall short of that if we don’t have strategies like Jenna’s Law as part of the puzzle,” Joy Hughes Rauls, CEO of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, said.
On the state level, the law championed by State Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, has been amended after it was first passed in 2009 to also include sex trafficking prevention in schools. Cornyn hopes his bill can show other states these prevention strategies are possible to implement.
“We want to make sure every community in the country has access to the programs like this and expertise like this because this, unfortunately, I think as we’ve heard today, it doesn’t depend on your zip code or where you’re from,” Cornyn said. “This, unfortunately, is a pervasive problem and one we need to be more conscious of.”
“I think highlighting the great success that’s occurred here in Texas as a result of Rep. Parker’s leadership and the leadership here in Texas, I think, will give other states some encouragement and let them realize there’s a model they can emulate, as well as money they can use to support their efforts,” he added.
You can find more information about a local children’s advocacy center here.