Some might call Erin Merryn a survivor, an advocate, a hero, or all three.
Erin Merryn is a remarkable, brave young woman. She is the drive behind Erin’s Law, which “requires age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education in grades Pre-kindergarten through 12 along with training school staff on the prevention of sexual abuse.” As of June 2015, 26 states have passed Erin’s Law.
Simply teaching a child about stranger danger and good touch/bad touch is not enough. 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday and 90% will be sexually abused by someone they know and trust. These two statistics alone make the school setting a natural place for children to learn how to speak up if someone – anyone – is crossing safe boundaries or inappropriately touching them. It also makes school faculty and staff the perfect audience to be taught how to protect children and how to respond if a student discloses sexual abuse.
The best protection we can give the children in our lives is to have open and honest conversations with them and, according to Erin’s website, “Erin’s Law empowers children with their voice instead of allowing sex offenders to silence them.”
If you are a school faculty or staff member and haven’t been trained in Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children please contact me. Let’s start a movement in Northern Virginia where any child can report to any trusting adult at school when they feel unsafe or someone has crossed boundaries. Let’s make sure that children know the trusting adult knows how to respond and can prevent others from being harmed.
(For more about Erin Merryn and Erin’s Law, read this profile from The Washington Post.)
To see Erin’s story: Attend a screening of Breaking the Silence on April 12th at the Nannie J. Lee Rec Center in the City of Alexandria or on April 26th at Briar Woods High School in Loudoun County. For more information about these special local screenings during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, please email me at [email protected]
– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager