Why Do We Need Erin’s Law When Parents Can Teach At home?
We’ve had this inquiry hundreds of times. The obvious answer to this question is: YES! Speaking openly about personal body safety is a protective factor in keeping our children safe from sexual abuse. Denying that parental involvement is a child’s best armor from danger would be misinformation.
The reality? Many parents do not discuss sexual abuse with their kids. They do not know how, where, or when to start the conversation. This kind of topic can be an emotional trigger for parents. It’s possible that us adults have our own trauma-symptoms up and running; we may fight thinking or talking about abuse because it reopens wounds we’ve tried to close.
Speaking as a parent, I wish abuse didn’t exist. It’s heartbreaking to imagine my child feeling alone with a secret, even when he’s surrounded by family. Avoiding prevention talks at home is the strongest driving force behind Erin’s Law. Yes, us parents and caregivers should be the ones teaching the children…but what if we don’t?
1 out of 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18 (Source 1).
1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18, though this statistic only accounts for touch-related offenses (Source 1).
About 38% of child victims disclose the fact that they have been sexually abused (Source 2 and 3).
Statistically speaking, if 38% are disclosing abuse, there is another 62% of children who feel the need to stay silent.
Recently, one of our presenters was implementing our “Be Seen and Heard©” program to fulfill Erin’s Law. Upon arrival for the second day, the presenter was pulled to the side. Four students had disclosed abuse following the assemblies earlier in the week, validating that our work is making a difference and children are being empowered to ask for help. For those four children that came forward, though, we know that there are still countless others who haven’t found their voice.
If a parent chooses to facilitate at home, but opt-out of our program, we are over the moon! It is not necessary for the kids to learn from us and ultimately parents have the final say in what their children will learn! If us parents and caregivers do not teach our children, ultimately we are opening up the abyss for another generation to feel lost and abandoned.
For the children whose parents cannot or will not educate them; for the children who grow up with an overworked child protection agency; and for children who are sexually abused by parents and caregivers, we are going to keep implementing Erin’s Law. Children have a right to know what abuse is, how to get help, and to keep telling until their voice is heard.
Townsend, C., & Rheingold, A.A., (2013). Estimating a child sexual abuse prevalence rate for practitioners: studies. Charlesto Darkness to Light. Retrieved from www.D2L.org.
London, K., Bruck, M., Ceci, S., & Shuman, D. (2003) Disclosure of child sexual abuse: What does the research tell us about the ways that children tell? Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11(1), 194-226.
Ullman, S. E. (2007). Relationship to perpetrator, disclosure, social reactions, and PTSD symptoms in child sexual abuse survivors. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 16(1), 19-36.