Locking up child abusers is only part of the solution, Gov. Norm Bangerter said, stressing that prevention should be the ultimate goal.
"Incapacitation is a temporary solution," Bangerter said in opening remarks to a child victim conference at the Capitol. "I believe that we must take preventive action in our homes, schools, churches and other established institutions to address the issue before it becomes a problem."The daylong conference, titled "When the Victim is a Child," featured talks by such luminaries as Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Gordon Hall, Attorney General David L. Wilkinson and keynote speaker John E.B. Myers, author and law professor. Workshops on various aspects of treating child victims, as well as treating and prosecuting perpetrators.
Bangerter said child sexual abuse is not only a crime against children but also against humanity. He said it is essential that the child not be victimized by the criminal justice system and noted that Utah has taken steps in that direction.
"Utah has been a pioneer in the area of child testimony to soften children's experience in the criminal justice system," he said.
He said that under certain conditions, a child's testimony may be videotaped to mitigate the trauma of the investigation and trial. He also pointed out that the rules of evidence have been relaxed to permit the use of some out-of-court statements and created the presumption that children who have been sexually abused are competent.
The governor also said Utah has recognized the "particularly awful nature" of child sexual abuse by imposing minimum mandatory sentences. But he said locking up sex offenders is only part of a solution, and he called for a stepped-up campaign to stop it from happening at all.
He also said better methods must be found to deal with offenders. "With few exceptions, offenders return to society from prison," he said. "Neither we, nor the victim, nor the offender, can afford repetition of previous crimes."