With the honor of being elected as your state representative, I began this journey full of so many wonderful ideas and passions from the people who trusted me to serve them. And it was early in my legislative experience, that I met a special resident that not only helped shape the core of my continued legislative passion, but changed the direction of how Texas would handle one of the most sensitive and darkest topics – child sexual abuse. It is truly a silent epidemic amongst us and tragically, one of the most underreported crimes.
It all began after my first session in the Texas Legislature when Dan Leal, the former director of the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County (“CACDC”) invited my wife, Beth, and me to take a tour. Together, we sought to gain a deeper understanding into the incredible work the CACDC was undertaking with protecting children and restoring innocent lives. It is a memory we will never forget – walking into those doors and feeling the weight of a topic not many wanted to openly discuss but knowing that the bravest of young souls were finding remarkable courage. Little did we know, our lives would be forever changed by a survivor who not only found the courage to speak up, but the inspiration to speak out for countless children and save them from the horror and destruction of abuse.
Jenna Quinn shared with us her experience of abuse that began as a child. She grew up in a loving home with two sisters and strong, caring parents who were very involved in her life. Yet like 90% of those who are sexually abused, she too knew and trusted her abuser – a very close family friend who found a way to prey on Jenna and deceive the family. Upon hearing her story, Beth and I knew that I had to take up this critical cause for her and all of the children suffering from the darkness of child sexual abuse.
Her idea was to implement a law to stop sexual abuse before it happened and empower teachers to recognize the signs. School personnel identify 52% of all child abuse cases, which is actually more than any other profession or organizational type, including child protective services agencies and police. Jenna was courageously prepared to see that Texas became the first state to pass a child sexual abuse prevention law mandating K-12 trainings for students and school staff.
I invited Jenna to bravely share her story with my Texas House and Senate colleagues to officially put forth the first bill in the nation that brought a common-sense solution to educate teachers and students on early recognition of the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse. It was an incredible show of bravery from a survivor determined to make a difference. It was a blessing to pass the bill unanimously; and on June 19, 2009, then Texas-governor Rick Perry signed Jenna’s Law making it the foundational preventative policy. I later amended Jenna’s law in 2017, to also include sex trafficking prevention education.
Over the years, other states have adopted this prevention model resulting in more children being saved. The national nonprofit, Darkness to Light, conducted a study in Texas because of Jenna’s Law and found that after training, educators reported at a rate almost 4 times greater than during their pre-training career. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn also recognizes the significance of every child in this nation having a chance to be saved and has worked hard to pass the Jenna Quinn Law in the U.S. Senate. The fact is that 95% of sexual abuse is preventable through education, and Jenna’s Law provides this opportunity. With Jenna’s continued courage the bill has cleared a major hurdle by passing the U.S. Senate, but it is now up to the U.S. House.
All because a brave survivor spoke up about the horrific reality of child sexual abuse, other children now have a voice and a chance to be heard before the damage is done. I will forever be amazed by Jenna’s courage, the strength of her family, the support of the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County and the unshakable faith of this courageous survivor who has made her life’s mission to protect the innocence of others and keep prevention, education and inspiration at the forefront of this fight. The passage of Jenna’s Law, that began in Texas and has now cleared the United States Senate, is her tremendous accomplishment and the life-line for our nation’s children who would otherwise face unthinkable devastation. My hope is that the U.S. House of Representatives can put politics aside and do the right thing for the American people and our children by passing the Jenna Quinn Law immediately.
It is an honor to serve in the Texas House and work together on the issues that matter to you. Please never hesitate to contact me at 972-724-8477 or email@example.com. You can also follow @tparker63 on Facebook and Twitter or @tanparkertexas on Instagram.
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