Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Silence common in child sex abuse cases
* Advocate pitches 'Erin's Law' on sex-abuse education.
* Erin Merryn says it's important for kids to know that it's OK to expose the abuse.
* Victim of childhood sexual abuse says other victims need to know it's OK to speak out.
* She wants schools to teach kids about sex abuse as they do drug abuse, tornado drills.
* Five states have passed versions of Erin's Law.
JACKSON, Miss. — A woman who was sexually abused as a child is on a 50-state mission to urge lawmakers to make education about child sex abuse part of schools' curriculum.
For 2½ years beginning at age 6, a neighbor raped Erin Merryn, now 27, of Schaumburg, Ill. A teenage cousin started molesting her when she was 11. Now, she's the force behind "Erin's Law" legislation, which her home state enacted earlier this month.
"I never had to run out of a burning building and I knew how to say no to drugs when I was approached in high school, but when two men were molesting and raping me I didn't know what to do so I stayed silent," Merryn said last week. "I don't want another child to face years of rape and abuse like I did. I want them to be able to have a voice and know to tell and not keep it a secret."
Her abusers threatened her if she told the secret — said that they would come get her, said that she would be destroying her family. She now says it is her life's mission to spread the word that it's important to tell and have legislation enacted in all 50 states.
Merryn is lobbying Mississippi lawmakers Monday and Tuesday.
Five states have passed Erin's Law — Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan and Missouri. And such legislation is pending in other states, including Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania, according to Merryn's website.
Mississippi Rep. Tom Miles, a Democrat from Forest, Miss., who has filed an Erin's Law bill in the state House said sexual abuse figures are staggering — 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys. Republican Sen. Nancy Collins of Tupelo, Miss., has filed companion legislation in the state Senate.
"This happens all the time and is often pushed under the rug," Miles said. "We believe bringing this law to Mississippi will not only educate the children what to do if this were to happen to them but let them know it is OK to speak out about it."