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State of Rhode Island General Assembly
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Op-Ed: It’s time to start protecting our kids
By State Representative Julie A. Casimiro
Early this summer, the General Assembly closed a loophole in state law that was putting our children in danger by allowing individuals in positions of authority to have sex with kids under their care. The legislation, which I introduced, now makes anyone in a position of authority who has sexual contact with a minor over 14 and under 18 years old guilty of third-degree sexual assault, carrying with it a penalty of five years in prison.
As we have seen with too many recent news reports, we must do more to protect our kids from sexual predators in positions of authority. This bill closes a dangerous loophole that has allowed individuals to abuse their authority and hurt our kids through coercive or abusive sexual behavior. These criminals need to be held accountable for preying on our children and this legislation will do just that now that the bill has been signed into law.
But, the passage of this bill does not signal the end of our battle against children predators, but only the beginning. Now that this policy is in state law, enforcement and awareness will be crucial to keeping our kids safe from bad actors in positions of authority.
The Department of Education, as well as DCYF, must communicate information about the law to school committees, administration and staff responsible for the care of our children. It is great to have laws that will actually protect children, but we need actual enforcement and meaningful penalties to eradicate the threat posed by these predators with authority over our kids.
I am grateful that my colleagues in the General Assembly, and the Administration, supported this crucial child protection bill, but we must all recognize that the battle against these heinous acts has only just begun. Talk to your kids, know what’s happening in their lives, and learn how to spot the signs of adults in your children’s lives who may be abusing their authority.
Awareness, communication and the application of the new law is how we stamp out this disturbing new pattern of adults in authority sexually abusing or harassing our kids. Only then will our children be protected and safe.
State Representative Julie A. Casimiro, a Democrat, represents District 31 in North Kingstown and Exeter.
For more information, contact:
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
Lt. Governor's Office
Secretary of State
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