What is Erin’s Law?
On January 24th, 2013 Governor Quinn of Illinois signed Senate Bill 856 into law. More commonly known as Erin’s Law, this legislation mandates all public schools to provide comprehensive prevention education on sexual abuse. Statistically speaking, 1/4 girls and 1/6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. If this law had not passed, countless children over the last 7 years would have been left in the dark to fend for themselves, suffer in silence, and bare the weight of a secret they should never have been told to keep.
So why teach at school and not at home? Let’s take a look at some key components of Erin’s Law and why implementing in schools could be a child’s best chance at breaking their silence.
Programs should include techniques to teach children to recognize child sexual abuse, equip them with skills to reduce their vulnerability and encourage them to report the abuse.
93% of the time, a child knows their abuser. If a child is being abused in their home or by a family member, they are most likely filled with shame and embarrassment and NOT being taught about safe and unsafe touch. Abusers are smart and know not to empower a child they are abusing. Providing curriculum in a neutral setting teaches children that unsafe touch is NEVER okay, it is NEVER their fault, and how to speak up. All of these lessons work together to lessen vulnerability and increase reporting.
Programs must include a component that encourages parental involvement within the child sexual abuse prevention program.
Caregivers are the closest “Trusted Hero” a child has in their life; A parent may be the first person a child chooses to disclose to about abuse. When parents are educated on safe and unsafe touch, secret-keeping, signs of sexual abuse, how to respond to a disclosure, and grooming tactics they are removing the imaginary blinders that surround this topic. They are acknowledging that abuse is a very real threat that they are now prepared to defend against it. Providing presentations and resources to parents is crucial in the fight to protection children, and one of the most important aspects of Erin’s Law.
Programs must include a professional training component for administrators, teachers and other school personnel.
It is quite possible that the only place a child feels safe to tell is in a setting like school. Surrounded by caring adults, positive relationships, and warmth may be the perfect catalyst for a disclosure. This Key Component requires school staff to receive education on how to talk about abuse, the effects of sexual abuse, how to handle and respond in the event of a disclosure, and mandated reporting. If presentations are being conducted in school, it’s only logical that staff is educated as well. Teachers are Trusted Heroes and on any given day they could be the hero chosen by a child.
Other key components encourage more than one session but ideally four and that curriculums be conducted annually and include culturally sensitive material within varying school contexts. While Erin’s Law has been passed in 37 states, it’s not enough. There are still 13 states with no mandate to equip children with the skills and tools to protect themselves from predators. The following states have not passed a form of Erin’s Law to date:
If your state is on the list, we ask that you be a part of the change and advocate for this legislation. While we hope all parents and caregivers educate their children, we know the reality: Sexual abuse is a topic often avoided, swept under the carpet, and deemed as taboo. By implementing in school and encouraging parental involvement at home, we are confronting this epidemic of sexual abuse head on. We are fighting for children in ways us adults wished for in our youth. With Erin’s Law we can make that wish a reality, and give children the childhood we all deserved.
FULL TRANSCRIPT (The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Be Seen and Heard Journey. Please note that this episode, like all BSH Journey episodes, features Victor speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited.)
Hey, it’s Victor, welcome to another Be Seen and Heard© Journey. Thank you for watching this video or listening to the podcast. I like to talk today about a woman that I met about four or five years ago and she is a woman who literally started a movement. She is helping children to not be voiceless when it comes to sexual abuse. And her name is Erin Merryn. I’m so grateful because the work I get to do today is really connected to this law. And it’s helping kids to raise their awareness not only about the difficult topic of sexual abuse, but also to help them raise their own awareness about their own body safety. And, ultimately, it’s about courage. Erin has demonstrated so much courage. Erin grew up in Illinois and she was abused repeatedly as a little girl. She grew up keeping her secret to herself and like so many victims do, she finally had the courage one day to speak up and fast forward.
She got a degree in social work and she started working in the school system. She noticed that they would have fire drills and tornado drills and earthquake drills on the west coast, but they would never teach kids how to stay safe from unsafe touch. And she thought to herself, wow, if I only have had that information when I was a young girl, maybe I wouldn’t have stayed voiceless for so long. And that became her mission. Erin’s Law was passed in 2013 and it requires all public schools to implement a sexual abuse awareness and prevention curriculum for grades pre-K to 12th grade. Illinois was the first state to pass the law. I’m proud to say it’s an over 35 States. And at this very moment, I believe it’s in 37 States. She has worked so hard to get this law passed.
And what I’m putting out today is this, there are a lot of states, there are a lot of schools still in Illinois that are not implementing this law. This is a yearly mandate. So I’m sharing this with you because if you know any schools in your area and you know you are an Erin’s Law state, they must be implementing this law. It is without a doubt, not only saving emotional lives, but I would put out there that it’s ultimately saving lives because kids can get the help that they need.
I have created the Be Seen and Heard© curriculum because I’m taking the law that Erin has worked so hard to get past and I’m making it available for young kids and older kids alike.
And so here’s a woman that without a doubt is Being Seen and Heard©. Read this week’s blog…it talks all about what the law is and what it actually has to cover. So with that being said, I’m so honored that you’re with me today and I’m so honored to really dedicate this video to Erin Merryn. So please share this video with your friends and family. Again, remember, let’s teach our kids to Be Seen and Heard©. They deserve it. We all deserve it. Have a great day.