Erin’s Law, the first law passed in the U.S. that requires children be taught sexual abuse prevention in school, is pending in Ohio.
In 2016, the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 85, also known as “Erin’s Law,” which provides a pathway for schools to educate students in grades K-12 about the dangers of sexual abuse and about sexual violence prevention in an age-appropriate manner. The bill passed with bipartisan support and the next step is the Ohio Senate.
Approximately 33 states have passed Erin’s Law, and it’s pending in 15 other states. Erin’s goal is legislation in all 50 states.
About 90 percent of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. About 60 percent of children who are sexually abused are abused by people the family trusts. Approximately 30 percent of children who are sexually abused are abused by family members. The younger the victim, the more likely it is that the abuser is a family member. Of those molesting a child under six, 50 percent were family members. Family members also accounted for 23 percent of those abusing children ages 12 to 17.
What is Erin’s Law?
Erin’s Law is named after Erin Merry, childhood sexual assault survivor, author and activist. Erin was sexually abused two different times in her childhood by people she knew. The first perpetrator, an adult neighbor, sexually assaulted her from ages 6-8. The second perpetrator, a teenage male cousin, sexually assaulted her from ages 11-13. Both threatened her into silence.
Erin’s Law requires that all public schools in each state implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program which teaches:
1. Students in grades pre-K through 12th grade, age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse and tell a trusted adult
2. School personnel all about child sexual abuse
3. Parents and guardians the warning signs of child sexual abuse, plus needed assistance, referral or resource information to support sexually abused children and their families
The program is about sexual-abuse education, not sex education.
“The silent epidemic is taking place all around us but you can help bring it to an end by simply making sure that people start talking about it. The more we bring child sexual abuse out into the open, the more likely we can prevent it and can properly support victims.”
Resource: Hope’s Place is a victim-focused, children’s advocacy center that provides a safe atmosphere, lessens trauma and promotes healing by maximizing services through a multi-disciplinary team approach for child victims of sexual abuse. Hope’s Place located in Ashland, KY, provides comprehensive medical examinations, mental health screenings, and forensic interview services for victims of sexual abuse.
Resource: “My Body Belongs to Me” by Jill Starishevsky is a 2014 picture book about body safety for children ages 3–8.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.