Law emphasizes education, teacher training as keys to ending sexual abuse of children

SPRINGFIELD, IL – State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) secured passage today of a measure designed to prevent child sexual abuse by educating elementary school students and training school personnel to respond to signs and reports of abuse. She partnered with former sexual abuse victim Erin Merryn, an Illinois native and Western Illinois University graduate who has advocated for similar laws in other states and in Congress. Glamour Magazine featured Erin as 2012 Woman of the Year for her efforts to help other children avoid or escape the kind of abuse she suffered as a young child.

"Passing Erin's Law gives children in Illinois the voice I never had as a child," Erin Merryn said. "We will finally begin educating children to speak up and tell if someone ever abuses or tries to abuse them. That's a lesson that could have saved me years of molestation and rape."

"Part of making our schools safe places is ensuring students can approach a teacher or staff member and receive accurate information and help when they have been abused," Sen. Collins said. "We know that 93 percent of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a person the victim already knows, so the 'stranger danger' warning children frequently hear is not sufficient protection."

In 2011, Sen. Collins co-sponsored legislation creating the Erin's Law Task Force. The group released a report in June finding that early education is a child's best defense. Currently, Illinois middle and high schools must provide sexual assault and abuse education, but there is no similar requirement for elementary schools. Erin's Law (House Bill 6193) requires schools to provide this instruction in an age-appropriate manner for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students. It also allows teachers to receive professional development credit for training in sexual assault and abuse awareness and prevention. The measure has already passed the House and will now go to the governor for his signature.

"Many perpetrators tell their victims they will be punished, not trusted and listened to, if they report the abuse," Sen. Collins said. "Schools are the best vehicle for making sure all children hear this important message and offering a way out so children will no longer suffer in shame and silence as Erin did."

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Chicago Office:
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Chicago, IL 60620
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