Erin Merryn is a Global Advocate for Child Sex Abuse Prevention
For years, Erin Merryn was too scared to speak up about sexual abuse. She was afraid she would be a burden to her cousin and that no one would believe her.
She was also afraid she would lose her innocence. She stayed silent because she wanted to be a good girl and she didn’t want her older cousin to hurt anyone else. She had been molested by a male neighbor and then by her cousin, and she feared that the abuse would continue.
That’s why she started writing down her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She hoped her diaries would help her and others. They also helped her get past the shame and anger that kept her silent.
When she turned 13, she told her parents that she had been sexually abused by her cousin. Her parents were devastated and had to discuss it with their son and daughter. Their family tried to solve the problem by arranging meetings between Merryn and her cousin’s family.
The abuse lasted for two years, Merryn said. It happened every time she was at the cousin’s house, or when they went on vacation or holiday gatherings. She was molested in the basement, bedroom, bathroom and a bathtub.
She began to act out in school, her behavior getting worse. She had to take medication for her depression and she had trouble sleeping at night.
In the end, she was able to tell her story to a friend and to her sister, who told her parents about her abuse. The family arranged for her to get counseling.
It was that therapy, along with a letter from her cousin, that changed her life. That’s why Erin Merryn is now an advocate for child sex abuse prevention. She wants to see it taught in all schools, and she’s traveling the country to do just that.
Her mission to protect children from sexual abuse is a global undertaking that will keep her on the go for years to come. She’s preparing to travel to Australia with her newborn in July, where she will speak about Erin’s Law before lawmakers.
Almost every state has passed a version of Erin’s Law, and more are in the works. New York has a bill on the table that could pass in 2019.
The Illinois Legislature has already passed her namesake law, but there’s still work to be done. The bill requires elementary and middle schools to teach age-appropriate lessons on child sexual abuse and assault. It is named after Merryn, who was raped at 6 years old by a friend’s uncle and later molested by her cousin.
She has toured classrooms and met with parents in the past two years, and her campaign is gaining traction across the country. A dozen states have already passed versions of her law, and there are now more than 25 pending versions.
The Illinois Senate Education Committee has considered a version of the bill in the past, but it never made it out of committee. A group called Fighting for Children PAC is working to help raise awareness about the bill and to persuade lawmakers to support it. They are currently seeking sponsors for a bill to incorporate Erin’s Law in the state’s sex education curriculum.