Michigan legislators will consider a set of three bills Wednesday that would require school districts to teach children about sexual abuse.
They’re being called “Erin’s Law” after 27-year-old Erin Merryn.
Merryn was sexually abused by two different men as a child and didn’t tell anyone until she found out her sister was a victim, too.
“I never said anything,” she said. “I was too scared, I was too confused. There was no language put to what just happened to me. A man with his hands down my pants, I didn't understand it.”
Merryn’s made it her mission to get laws passed educating children about sexual abuse in all 50 states.
So far, she’s been successful in Illinois, Indiana, Maine and Missouri.
Senator John Proos is sponsoring one of the bills being proposed in Michigan. It would create a one-time panel that would make recommendations to the state on how schools could address the topic of sexual abuse.
“What's the curriculum we would use for K through five so we can teach our kids how to say no?” he said. “How to make sure they understand the difference between appropriate touching and inappropriate touching. All of the sorts of things that I think are going to make a difference for our kids and then hopefully stop the cycle of violence.”
Another measure will allow parents to opt out of the program if they so choose. Merryn says that could help identify victims of sexual abuse because their families are the ones who wouldn’t want their child to learn about the inappropriate behavior.
The curriculum will not only teach kids about sexual abuse, but encourage them to speak up.
“They aren't just getting the message this is our little secret, I'll hurt you, I'll hurt your family, nobody will believe you, you have no proof,” Merryn said. “They will be getting the message to tell, tell, tell that it’s inappropriate.”
Proos says he expects the bills to pass committee and the full Senate Wednesday.
Then they’ll move to the House, where he expects Erin’s Law to pass by the end of the year.
There has been some pushback from lawmakers in other states where the bill’s been proposed; they were worried about the cost of implementation and giving schools additional standards to meet.
But Proos says after hearing Merryn’s testimony and talking to sponsors of the bills, many of those legislators supported the measure.
If Erin’s Law passes in Michigan, the advisory committee created as part of Proos’ bill will have 180 days to make recommendations to the state.
The state will then let school districts know how to move forward.
Proos hopes they’ll be teaching kids about sexual abuse by the beginning of the 2014 school year, at the latest.