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House hears on McCabe support for Erin's Law

 

March 29, 2017

Contributed

ERIN AND CHILD: Erin Merryn sits with her baby next to Rep. Gina McCabe Thursday in Olympia for a hearing on Erin's Law.

Thursday, the House Education Committee heard testimony in support of a bill that would establish a task force to create sexual-abuse identification and prevention curriculum for grades K-12.

The legislation, House Bill 1539, is referred to as Erin's Law, named after Illinois mom Erin Merryn, who was sexually abused as a child. Lawmakers had the opportunity to hear Erin's story Thursday as she testified in favor of the bill.

"I was taught 'stranger danger.' Don't go look for the lost puppy, don't take candy from the stranger," said Merryn. "The reality is, it's not strangers parents need to be concerned about. It's the people you know and trust."

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only 10 percent of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control estimate 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18-statistics the bill's sponsor, Rep. Gina McCabe, says are unacceptable.

"The statistics are staggering," said McCabe, R-Goldendale. "We teach our kids how to stay safe during earthquakes and fires, to buckle up when they get in a car, but we don't teach them what safe touch is and what to do when they've been victimized. Erin's Law would change that."

McCabe's bill is one version of the 28 other Erin's Law measures that have passed throughout the country. House Bill 1539 would create the Erin's Law Legislative Task Force and would charge the group with developing evidence-based, age-appropriate sexual-abuse prevention curriculum. Additionally, the task force would be required to identify funding sources for curriculum implementation.

With the passage of the congressional Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, school districts throughout the country will be able to qualify for federal education dollars to fund sexual-abuse education programs.

While both Merryn and McCabe hope to make Washington the 29th state to adopt Erin's Law legislation, Merryn said she will not give up until all 50 states have enacted sexual-abuse prevention curriculum.

"My innocence was stolen. My trust was taken. But the one thing I got back was my voice," said Merryn. "I'm going to ensure every child in America and around the world knows how to speak up and tell."

House Bill 1539 has yet to be scheduled for an executive session in the House Education Committee. The 2017 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 23.

 

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