Schools now on the front lines of preventing, stopping sexual abuse of children


SPRINGFIELD, IL — Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) spoke at a signing ceremony for “Erin’s Law” and applauded its namesake, Erin Merryn, a victim-turned-advocate who was sexually abused as a child and now campaigns nationwide for policies that protect children from molestation.


“We recognize that schools can and should function as safe havens for children who need desperately to know that sexual abuse is wrong, that it’s not their fault and that they can stop the abuse by telling a trusted adult,” said Sen. Collins, who in 2011 sponsored legislation creating the Erin’s Law Task Force, which issued recommendations incorporated in the law signed today. “I salute Erin Merryn for having the courage to tell her story so other children will not have to endure the abuse she suffered for years.”


House Bill 6193, known as Erin’s Law, requires schools to provide sexual assault and abuse prevention education in an age-appropriate manner for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students. Previously only middle and high schools were required to offer this instruction. The new law also allows teachers to receive professional development credit for training in sexual assault and abuse awareness and prevention.


The signing ceremony was held at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates. Ms. Merryn, an Illinois native, received counseling at the center after finally telling her parents about abuse she suffered at the hands of a friend’s uncle and an older cousin. She had been raped and molested repeatedly for five years, but shame and fear kept her from reporting the perpetrators. Since 2010, she has pushed for all states to pass versions of Erin’s Law and testifies that she would have been emboldened to speak up if her school had taught her about unacceptable touch, emphasized that child victims are not at fault in abusive situations and offered resources and a listening ear.


PHOTO: State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th), advocate Erin Merryn and Governor Pat Quinn at the bill signing for House Bill 6193 on January 24th, 2013

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