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Advocates Pushing “Erin’s Law” Believe It Will Save Countless Children From Abuse

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 19:12
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The statistics about child abuse are staggering. The worst part about it is that it is often not recognized or talked about until well after the fact. When it comes to child abuse or sexual abuse, being able to punish your assailant  comes with a statute of limitations.

The biggest problem is that most children are either afraid or completely unaware that they have been abused at all. It’s often not until they grow up and realize that grown-ups aren’t supposed to behave abusively that they know they have been hurt. And by then, it is often too late to make the abuser pay for their crimes.

An  abuse victim in St. Paul, Minnesota is pushing for something called “Erin’s Law.” The law would require school systems to spend a minimum of one hour per year educating children sensitively about how to spot sexual abuse, what it is, and why it is not all right. The law is being heavily debated around the country.

Many Minnesotans believe that Minnesota is already well behind the tide of changing the occurrence of child sexual abuse when compared to other states and the laws they have in place, which is why Erin’s Law is so important to advocates.

April Kane is pushing to make Erin’s Law a reality and save many children from the abuse that she suffered. Believing that there is a real lack of public awareness or guidelines about how to teach and address sexual abuse in her state, she is determined to bring the subject of sexual abuse out from behind closed doors and to stop making children, the victims.

Statistics found by one of the top law firms in Seattle shows that nine out of every ten children that endure sexual abuse do so at the hands of a family member, parent, or a neighbor that is a trusted person in the child’s life. That is why it is so hard to spot. The child believes that the individual who is abusing them wouldn’t hurt them and turns the blame on themselves and internalizes it. That leads to many abused kids not speaking out and is part of why it is so important to make children aware of what to do.

Children have no idea what sexual behavior is. Although they know it is wrong, they often don’t even have the vocabulary to describe what is going on or how they feel. Stuck in a dead zone, they endure it in silence. It isn’t just children who are unaware; most parents don’t know the signs. Assuming that their child is going through a stage, they often misunderstand the behaviors that signal abuse and dismiss them out of sheer ignorance.

Erin Merryn is a woman from Illinois who first initiated the law. To date, it has been passed in over 28 states, and it is on the docket to pass in six more just this year. For some reason, there is a lot of opposition to the law in Minnesota. And Kane is worried that it won’t pass due to stigmas or the opposition. Waiting almost three years, Kane insists there hasn’t even been a motion to hear Erin’s Law in Minnesota.

Wanting things to change, Representative Peggy Bennett of Minnesota is adopting an alternate version of the bill to present to the Minnesota House. Her bill is unlike similar bills passed in other states. It is not a mandate; it would encourage schools to include sexual abuse sign training or risk losing federal funding. It would also provide additional aid to those schools who have already adopted their own version of training  despite the law not having been passed.

Not wanting to push too hard, Bennett believes that if given the option, school districts have the best interests and the health of their children at heart and will do the right thing. Perhaps because of the sensitive nature of the subject, many educators are concerned about giving too much information to children who aren’t ready for it.

It’s a double-edged sword; they run the risk of putting too much out there or leaving out information that could potentially alter the lives of countless sexual abuse victims statewide. Sexual abuse is a huge hurdle to overcome. Perhaps with just a little persuasion and a little less control, instead of a mandate, laws similar to Erin’s Law will win over the politicians and educators around Minnesota and the rest of the states who have not yet adopted Erin’s Law.


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