LANSING – Sen. Judy Emmons introduced legislation known as “Erin’s Law” on Wednesday in the state Senate to help prevent the sexual abuse of children in Michigan.
“This legislation is about protecting Michigan children from sexual abuse, which tragically steals the innocence of childhood from 25 percent of girls and one of every seven boys,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “More than 90 percent of the time, sexual abuse survivors know their abuser. Many child sexual abuse survivors are afraid to come forward. Erin’s Law is about eliminating that fear and ending the abuse.”
The measures are named “Erin’s Law” after Erin Merryn, a sexual abuse survivor from Illinois, whose advocacy in her home state led to the passage of a similar law there in 2011. After going public about abuse by a family member, Merryn made it her mission to try to ensure that children have the age-appropriate education to recognize and talk about sexual abuse.
“As a child I was educated in school on tornado drills, bus drills, fire drills, stranger danger and drugs, but when I was sexually abused, I listened to the only message I was being given – and that came from my abusers to stay silent,” said Merryn. “Educating kids on sexual abuse prevention in schools is the best way to empower kids to tell so abuse won’t go on for years the way it did for me. My voice was silenced. I am on a mission to make sure no other child has their voice silenced and innocence stolen the way mine was.”
Senate Bills 1112-1114 would require school boards to adopt and implement policies addressing child sexual abuse and would create a one-time Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children, made up of legislators, state officials and experts to make recommendations on changes to Michigan law.
Schools could adopt age-appropriate curriculums for students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, train school personnel on child sexual abuse, and adopt policies concerning informing parents on the warning signs of abuse. Parents would be made aware of the curriculum and be able to “opt out” if they did not want their child involved.
“As a mother and grandmother, I applaud Erin for her bravery and leadership in working to help children get the education and support they need to identify abuse and get help,” Emmons said. “My bill is about protecting our children from sexual abuse and enabling parents to make the ultimate decision about the appropriateness of sexual abuse instruction for their young child.”
If the bills are passed and signed, Michigan would join Illinois, Indiana and Missouri in enacting Erin’s Law to protect children from sexual predators. Similar legislation has also been introduced in New York, Minnesota, New Mexico, Maine, Iowa and Massachusetts.
Editor’s Note – Audio comments by Sen. Emmons are available on the senator’s webpage at www.SenatorJudyEmmons.com. Click on “Podcasts.”