The following well written article returned me to the terrified glare a seven year old girl maintained for the half hour drive from court to the foster home when I was a new guardian ad-Litem.

Since then, I have witnessed very young children (as young as four) try to kill themselves and seen others exhibit terrifying behaviors (starting fires, stabbing, etc) that I know to be a direct result of the abuse they have suffered.

A few of these children I have been in contact with for over ten years and I know that not a day goes by without them reliving the unspeakable acts that have made them who they are.

The good news is our medical people have developed treatments that can help children overcome trauma.

The great sadness is that sex abuse is grossly under-reported and the services available to terribly abused children are very limited.

We don’t want to talk about it & therefore not much is said about it, which means not much will be done about it (because it’s obviously a very rare thing – or more would be said about it).

Much more needs to be written and spoken of on this topic as much like the sex abuse hidden in the Catholic church for so many years, very few communities have made an effort to understand or bring attention to the size, scope, and impact of this issue (to the everlasting detriment of children).

Please do comment on this article.

Schaumburg grad, sex abuse victim campaigns for ‘Erin’s Law’
By Kimberly Pohl | Daily Herald StaffContact writer

Erin Merryn, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, speaks to psychology students last week at Harper College in Palatine.

Erin Merryn, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, speaks to psychology students last week at Harper College in Palatine.

Erin Merryn’s second book, “Living for Today,” was released in November.

Whether facing students, counselors or politicians, Erin Merryn tells her audience to think back to their elementary school days.

Most hands go up when asked if they remember evacuating school buses, “stranger danger” or say no to drugs. Midwesterners recall tornado drills. West Coasters remember earthquake drills.

But nobody moves when the 25-year-old Schaumburg woman asks who learned “how to get away and tell today” and other protections against childhood sexual abuse.

Merryn believes she wouldn’t have lived in silence after being raped at 6 years old by a neighbor had some sort of formal education been in place.

And when a cousin repeatedly molested her five years later, Merryn believes she would have come forward sooner had teachers instilled the need to tell.

Merryn, who has a master’s degree in social work, said that the first time many students get any sexual assault education is in high school, too late for many. “I want to prevent this from ever happening, not deal with the aftermath,” she said.

Merryn is pushing for state legislation aiming to do just that.

Erin’s Law calls for age-appropriate curriculum on sexual abuse for prekindergarten through fifth grade. Its purpose is to prevent children from falling prey to sexual abuse or remaining silent if they do.

State Sen. Tim Bivins, a Dixon Republican and former Lee County sheriff, is sponsoring Erin’s Law. He filed the bill on Thursday and hopes it will come up for a vote before the spring session adjourns May 7.

It goes far deeper than current school code, which only says sexual violence must be mentioned as part of bullying prevention, and a health education act requiring sexual assault information be taught in high schools.

The legislation creates a nine-person task force charged with researching child sexual abuse throughout Illinois, receiving testimony and establishing strategies that would ultimately become state policy.

“We can’t end this evil epidemic, so we need to give innocent children the tools and knowledge to protect themselves,” Merryn said. “Otherwise they’ll listen to the perpetrator who tells them to be quiet because it’s the only message they’re getting.”

One in four girls and one in six boys will be abused by their 18th birthday, according to a Centers for Disease Control study. And more than 90 percent of victims know their abusers, according to Children’s Advocacy Centers, a nonprofit network of 700 facilities providing services to fight child abuse.

Dixon Police Chief Dan Langloss, who heard Merryn speak and put her in contact with Bivins, said of the 150 abuse victims ages 3 to 13 he’s interviewed, not one of their perpetrators was a stranger.

Langloss also said that most parents don’t report abuse to police when a child confides in them. He believes children must learn to tell their teachers, counselors and other authority figures who are mandated reporters.

Merryn’s been on a crusade to erase the stigma put on victims of sexual abuse for the past eight years and won’t be deterred.

As a senior at Schaumburg High School, she published “Stolen Innocence,” a collection of diary entries from ages 11 to 19 chronicling her abuse and healing process.

Merryn tours the country telling her story at conferences, colleges, fundraisers and on talk shows. She also works closely with Children’s Advocacy Centers, the place she finally broke her silence at age 13 after discovering her cousin was also molesting her little sister.

Merryn struggled for about five years after coming forward, suffering flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks and thoughts of suicide. She self-injured and had an eating disorder and depression.

Then she confronted her cousin and corresponded with him through letters. He apologized and she eventually let go of her anger. Forgiveness is a main focus of her second book, “Living for Today,” released in November.

Merryn is her middle name, and she uses it in the public eye in order to protect the identity of her relatives.

Bivins is confident both parents and legislators will get behind Erin’s Law, especially since it is calling for research before implementation. He wants to get the task force assembled before summer.

Professors and staff at Harper College, including Linda Campbell, an associate professor of psychology who invited Merryn to speak to 200 of her students, have volunteered to research and create curriculum.

Bivins also suggested Merryn teach the curriculum on a DVD that can be mass-produced in order to keep costs minimal.

If all goes according to plan, the task force will submit its final report to the governor and General Assembly on April 30, 2011. That’s the 13th anniversary of when Merryn entered the Children’s Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates with her little sister and parents, and the day she found her voice.

“This law is necessary and overdue,” Chief Langloss said. “We need to wake people up that child sexual abuse is an immediate problem and has long-lasting and devastating effects.”

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  1. I am pleased someone is doing this. The injustices of these acts are too frequent. A offender is not the one who suffers the most IF they get caught. The victim has to live with their entire life. Not everyone knows how to move on. I agree with the comments above. The young people in this society need to be informed better. There is a lot in this world that is evil and the sad reality is it happens everyday. The most vulnerable which is children under 18 usually, they need a helping hand and protectors.

  2. My book, “I Will Fear No Evil – Jenny’s Story” deals with the long term effects of child abuse in a narrative fiction based on reality. I am so pleased to see that many are working on this problem but so much more needs to be done to educate with the goal of prevention. I am surprised at the number of women who have read my book who have come to me thanking me for telling “their story” when I had no idea these friends and acquaintances had been abused. As a Registered Nurse with 36 years experience, I have seen the effects manifested at all ages. Some are able to deal effectively with it, but some never do, yet others have successes and relapses. It is during those relapses when I meet them on a psychiatric unit. Since my book is very descriptive, the reader is placed with the victim during the molestation – there is no way of escaping the emotions the reader feels. I cried writing it more than I have cried in my lifetime. It is enlightening, educational, and shockingly real. I also have been surprised at the many mothers who have given it to their teenage daughters to read. Teachers and social workers have loved it and say it needs to be a movie. I am on facebook for anybody who might be interested. I need help getting the book out on a national level. The second book of the trilogy is in the hands of my editor. The third book will be non-fictional – the life of a friend and collegue who was horribly abused as a child by her mother’s boyfriend. Her’s is a success story of her life as an adult – a success so far that is for no-body can predict how she will be able to handle tomorrow. God bless the children.

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