||Erin Merryn - crusader for America's children
by Bill Murray - (please also see link to radio show interview below)
November 22, 2011
It was easy to be humbled recently by Erin Merryn, namesake of "Erin's Law," the 26 year old child abuse survivor and advocate who began "a crusade to save the children of Illinois from the childhood I could not be saved from. It is a silent epidemic because we are not talking about it with children."
She's not willing to sit idly by ..
Illinois Senate Bill 2843, know as "Erin's Law," was passed unanimously Feb 14, 2011, and has spawned a set of similar laws in several other states.
The purpose of the law is to inform and protect students from sexual abuse, to mandate school districts implement and educate students on sexual abuse. School boards are instructed to adopt age appropriate curriculum on sexual abuse education to students grades pre-k through 5th grade.
As Ms. Merryn points out, "Growing up in Illinois public schools every year I was educated with my classmates on tornado drills, fire drills, bus drills, stranger danger, and learned the 8 ways to say "NO" to drugs through D.A.R.E."
She continues, "As a child I never had to take cover because of a real tornado. I never had to stop, drop, and roll or run out of a burning building. I never had to evacuate a school bus due to an emergency, but I had the knowledge to know what to do if any of those situations happened. Where was the drill on how to escape a child molester? Where was the lesson plan on sexual abuse, safe touches, and safe secrets?"
Growing up in solidly middle class Illinois, Erin was sexually abused starting at 6 years old by a friend of her family and in pre-teen years by her older cousin. So she knows what she's talking about when she decsribes her mission "to take the stigma and shame off of sexual abuse survivors and give them a reason to speak. To educate the public that children are being abused right now in your own communities and our own backyards. I am at war against this silent evil that is lurking in the shadows."
Erin considers herself lucky. When her younger sister confided in Erin about her own sex abuse, Erin took it upon herself to reveal their story to her shocked but supportive, mom and dad. They in turn eventually engaged the family in the services provided by the local Children's Advocacy Center (CAC), where the still teen-aged Erin came to understand she was not alone.
By her last years of high school, Ms. Merryn had decided to use her story, and her recovery, to assist the millions of kids she'd learned are touched by the silent epidemic of child abuse in America today.
She began a career talking to groups, including
high schools, colleges, sexual assault centers, child abuse conferences, and community events. She has remained dedicated to the work 700 Children's Advocacy Centers in America do for helping children heal. She says, "It was the very first place in my childhood I broke my silence and began sharing some of the details of what I went through. I learned there I was not at fault for what happened."
Erin earned a bachelors degree in social work from Western Illinois University and a masters in socaial work from Aurora University, managing to publish two books.
||Erin is anything but shy, and finds it easy to speak in front of groups. Her media apearances have included
Issues with Jane Velez Mitchell (2011), Oprah Winfrey Show (October 2010), Montel Williams (April 2006), Good Morning America (May 2006). In October 2008 she was a part of a slide show on Oprah about superwomen.
Erin regularly appears on many local news station programs after speaking at an event, and she's taken part in numerous radio interviews. Erin was in a commercial for the National Children's Alliance that began airing in July 2010 and in December 2010 she was named Newsmaker of the year for the Daily Herald.
But perhaps her most imprtant appearances have been in front of state legislatures, beginning with Illinois, where she's successfully argued for support of bills that mandate school districts implement and educate students on sexual abuse. School boards are instructed to adopt age appropriate curriculum on sexual abuse education to students grades pre-k through 5th grade.
Thus far a second state, Missouri, has passed what's become known as "Erin's Law" which is waiting for the governor's sigature in Maine, and is set to be introduced in New York, Pennsylvania,
New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho and Florida.
She'd like to see it taken nationwide.
A Task Force has been formed in Illinois which meets regularly to devise and flesh out plans for how to institute the mandate. The goal is to have curriculum ready to go for school year 2012-2013.
"I am one of those who will talk about it," Erin says, "and will not let anything get in my way of bringing this epidemic in the spotlight. I am on an unstoppable crusade, and I've learned more in 26 years of life then I could have ever expected in a lifetime. My vision now is to take Erin's Law national. President Obama said in a letter to me when he was my U.S. Senator in Illinois in January 2006, "Protecting our nations children is on my mind. Now is the time to act." I will hold President Obama accountable to this statement and see that he acts on protecting our nations children."
When asked what one can do to help Ms. Merryn as she moves forward she says, "Write your local Representative with the language of my law. Get your Senator to sponsor it. That would be amazing!"
NAASCA seconds this request, and stands shoulder to shoulder to Erin as she speaks on behalf of those who can not speak for themselves yet are most innocent, precious, and vulnerable .. America's kids, as well as their families and those who have suffered child abuse.
Here's the language in Illinois State Senate Bill 2843, Erin's Law:
(Governor Quinn Signed Erin's Law Feburary 14, 2011)
What would Erin's Law do?
The purpose of this law is to inform and protect students from sexual abuse.
To mandate school districts implement and educate students on sexual abuse.
School boards will adopt age appropriate curriculum on sexual abuse education to students grades pre-k through 5th grade.
Education in schools is an effective method for preventing children from falling prey to sexual abuse or stay silent if it does occur.
Language of Erin's Law SB2843
SB2843 Enrolled LRB096 16940 MJR 32253 b
AN ACT concerning education.
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly:
Section 5. The School Code is amended by adding Sections22-65 and 10-23.13 as follows:
(105 ILCS 5/22-65 new) Sec. 22-65. The Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children.
"I feel we are all born with a purpose ..
.. and I found mine."
The Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children is created within the Department of Children and Family Services.
The Task Force shall consist of all of the following members:
(1) One member of the General Assembly and one member of the public, appointed by the President of the Senate.
(2) One member of the General Assembly and one member of the public, appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate.
(3) One member of the General Assembly and one member of the public, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(4) One member of the General Assembly and one member of the public, appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives.
(5) The Director of Children and Family Services or his or her designee.
(6) The State Superintendent of Education or his or her designee.
(7) The Director of Public Health or his or her designee.
(8) The Executive Director of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority or his or her designee.
(9) A representative of an agency that leads the collaboration of the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of child sexual and physical abuse cases, appointed by the Director of Children and Family Services.
(10) A representative of an organization representing law enforcement, appointed by the Director of State Police.
(11) A representative of a statewide professional teachers' organization, appointed by the head of that organization.
(12) A representative of a different statewide professional teachers' organization, appointed by the head of that organization.
(13) A representative of an organization involved in the prevention of child abuse in this State, appointed by the Director of Children and Family Services.
(14) A representative of an organization representing school management in this State, appointed by the State
Superintendent of Education.
(15) Erin Merryn, for whom Section 10-23.13 of this Code is named.
Members of the Task Force must be individuals who are actively involved in the fields of the prevention of child abuse and neglect and child welfare. The appointment of members must reflect the geographic diversity of the State.
The Task Force shall elect a presiding officer by a majority vote of the membership of the Task Force. The Task Force shall meet at the call of the presiding officer. The Task Force shall make recommendations for reducing child sexual abuse in Illinois. In making those recommendations, the Task Force shall:
(1) gather information concerning child sexual abuse throughout the State;
(2) receive reports and testimony from individuals, State and local agencies, community-based organizations, and other public and private organizations;
(3) create goals for State policy that would prevent child sexual abuse; and
(4) submit a final report with its recommendations to the Office of the Governor and the General Assembly by January 1, 2012.
The recommendations may include proposals for specific statutory changes and methods to foster cooperation among State agencies and between the State and local government.
The Task Force shall consult with employees of the Department of Children and Family Services, the Criminal Justice Information Agency, the Department of State Police, the Illinois State Board of Education, and any other State agency or department as necessary to accomplish the Task Force's responsibilities under this Section.
The members of the Task Force shall serve without compensation and shall not be reimbursed for their expenses. The Task Force shall be abolished upon submission of the final report to the Office of the Governor and the General Assembly.
(105 ILCS 5/10-23.13 new)
Sec. 10-23.13. Policies addressing sexual abuse. To adopt and implement a policy addressing sexual abuse of children that may include age-appropriate curriculum for students in pre-K through 5th grade; training for school personnel on child sexual abuse; educational information to parents or guardians provided in the school handbook on the warning signs of a child being abused, along with any needed assistance, referral, or resource information; available counseling and resources for students affected by sexual abuse; and emotional and educational support for a child of abuse to continue to be successful in school. Any policy adopted may address without limitation:
(1) methods for increasing teacher, student, and parent awareness of issues regarding sexual abuse of children, including knowledge of likely warning signs indicating that a child may be a victim of sexual abuse;
(2) actions that a child who is a victim of sexual abuse should take to obtain assistance and intervention; and
(3) available counseling options for students affected by sexual abuse.
This Section may be referred to as Erin's Law.
NOTE: If you've never heard one of our Internet-based "Stop Child Abuse Now" (SCAN) talk radio shows you should listen to episode, #186. Our very special guest, Erin Merryn, is the namesake for "Erin's Law" which seeks to introduce age appropriate information on sex abuse and how to avoid / prevent it to students in pre-K through elementary school. Please listen to Erin, then support this amazing young lady and the vital work she's doing state by state, all across America!
CLICK HERE: www.blogtalkradio.com/bill-murray/2011/11/22/ stop-child-abuse-now-scan
Join on Facebook:
Please see the web site: www.ErinMerryn.net