Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recently passed a bill to help protect children from sexual abuse. The bill was named for Erin Merryn, a 27-year-old from Schaumburg, Ill., who was sexually abused as a child.
Erin’s Law allows schools to implement age-appropriate techniques to teach children how to recognize sexual abuse and tell a trusted adult. It also educates school staff about warning signs of sexual abuse and referral or resource information availible to support sexually abused children and their families.
“Everyone involved in a school—staff, students and parents—needs to recognize the warning signs of sexual abuse,” Snyder said in a statement. “We educate our children on how to say no to drugs, how to stay safe in a fire or tornado and how to avoid strangers.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse is a reality for some children, and we need to provide age-appropriate education to encourage them to speak up and end the abuse.”
Senators John Proos, Judy Emmons and Rebekah Warren supported passing Erin’s Law and introduced bipartisan legislature to Michigan’s Senate. Senate Bills 1112-1114 require school boards to implement policies addressing child sexual abuse.
The law also creates a one-time Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children, which is made up of legislators, state officials and experts to make recommendations on changes to Michigan laws.
Erin’s Law has already been passed in Illinois, Indiana, Maine and Missouri. Passage of the law is currently pending in Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.
According to ErinsLaw.org, about 300,000 children are reportedly being sexually abused each year in the U.S. and sexual abuse is rarely a one-time occurrence. Statistics show one in five girls and one in 20 boys are victims of sexual abuse, and only about one in 10 children will report it. Children are most likely to be sexually abused between the ages of 7-13.
Merryn was sexually abused as a child by two men, one who was a member of her family. She finally broke her silence with the help of The Children’s Advocacy Center in Illinois. In 2011, she became an advocate in Illinois and was able to pass a version of Erin’s Law. She made it her mission to give all children age-appropriate education about sexual abuse and where to go for help.
Merryn has been working to raise awareness about sexual abuse against children. She travels across the country telling people her story of being sexually abused as a child.
She is also the president of Erin’s Law, a nonprofit social welfare organization. Her hope is to get a bill like Erin’s Law passed in all 50 states.
Merryn has written two books, “Stolen Innocence: Triumphing Over a Childhood Broken by Abuse: A Memoir” and “Living for Today: From Incest and Molestation to Fearlessness and Forgiveness.” The books detail what she went through as a child and how she overcame it.
Erin has also been featured in multiple interviews, appearing on “Oprah,” “Good Morning America” and CNN, and in articles in Time and The Chicago Tribune. She has dedicated her life to informing America about child sexual abuse and supporting victims of the crime.