Governor Quinn recently signed “Erin’s Law” at the Children’s Advocacy Center of North and Northwest Cook County in Hoffman Estates. That’s where Erin Merryn, then-13-year-old, first spoke up about the sexual abuse that she had gone through, 14 years ago.
After watching the new mandate for child-sex abuse education in Illinois schools get signed into law, Merryn will hit the road to spread her cause throughout the nation.
Previously only high schools were required to teach sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention efforts, but this law extends the efforts to elementary and middle schools as well.
“You do not know how joyous this is for me, how hard I’ve worked for this,” said Merryn about the new law.
Merryn, 27, added that although the mandate is not funded, the law allows school districts to decide how to implement it. The schools can either train teachers on how to educate their students or use and pay for the existing research-based curriculum.
Schools don’t just need to hire someone to come in (from) outside the school. You’ve got the staff right there that you already pay that are capable of teaching this, with the proper training,” said Merryn.
According to Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, “Erin’s Law” is the first school mandate in two years that is unfunded. Crespo is the vice-chair for the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and said that unfunded mandates are always a concern and have always been an issue.
The education will be tailored for age appropriateness, with children as young as preschoolers, said Merryn. For some students, the learning could be as simple as teaching them to whom they can turn to with uneasy feelings.
Merryn became devoted to this cause after being abused as a child between the ages of 6 to 8 and again from age 11 to 13. Lawmakers praised her for her courage to quit her job in 2010 as a youth and family counselor to create a national awareness campaign.
Merryn’s campaign also focuses on supporting child advocacy centers and ending stigmas about sex abuse, reminding adults to be aware and to act.
The Schaumberg native and author worked for three years for Illinois to pass the law and is working to get similar laws passed in the other 49 states. At the bill signing, when Quinn invited Merryn to a national governor’s meeting, she accepted, saying “You will save me many, many years.”
If you or someone in your family has been sexually abused, contact a family law attorney to fight the abuser. Sullivan, Taylor and Gumina lawyers in Wheaton, IL will fight for you.