Erin’s Law advocate warns of child sex abuse
Erin Merryn had no idea she would have to deal with sexual abuse at age 6 while spending the night with a close friend.
The offender was her friend’s uncle who was living there.
“I was sleeping on the floor in my sleeping bag when I heard the door open,” she told an audience of 300 during the Alabama Child Safety Conference in Decatur last week. “He knelt down beside me and abused me. He told me, ‘It’s our little secret, don’t tell anybody.’ I said nothing because I was afraid of what he might do.”
An audience of school administrators, teachers, law enforcement officers, social workers and health care professionals listened silently in the sanctuary of Decatur Baptist Church as Merryn told her story of repeated sexual abuse from age 6 to 13.
The abuse continued until her family moved to a new neighborhood, and she was enrolled in a different school.
“Within a few months, my anxiety disappeared, but I remained quiet about the abuse,” she said.
Later, she was raped by an older cousin while attending an extended family vacation. The abuse was repeated until she reached the age of 13.
“When I learned that he had been abusing my younger sister, I told her, ‘We’ve got to tell our parents,’” Merryn said. “They were shocked and angry. My father confronted his sister and her husband, but my cousin denied his guilt. “
He later was ordered by the juvenile court to serve seven years of probation and do community service, but only served six months of probation.
Merryn wrote a book about her sexually abusive childhood while she was a senior in high school. It is sold under the title “Stolen Innocence.” She has since written two other books on childhood sexual abuse under different titles.
Merryn has advocated the passage of “Erin’s Law” in all 50 states for the past five years.
The law requires the teaching of age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention in public schools. It also requires school curriculum to include teaching children the difference between safe and unsafe touches and what’s a safe secret and an unsafe one.
The law is designed to help children develop a list of people who they can go to for help if they are ever sexually abused and instructs administrators how to properly handle sexual abuse situations.
Erin’s Law has been passed in 20 states and is pending in 23 others, including Alabama.
The danger of young children being sexually abused by family members was one of the topics addressed at the 13th annual Alabama Child Safety Conference last week.
Keynote speaker for the morning session of the conference was police officer Jermaine Galloway. He spoke on High in Plain Sight, offering specific information on dabbing, drug concentrates, paraphernalia and butane honey oil extration.
He shared information about a new drug, marijuana wax, oil or concentrates, whose method of production has led to explosions, causing injuries and death.
He said this new drug, which has a THC level of 60-80 percent, is sweeping the country.
The term “dabbing” is its street name, but it is officially referred to as marijuana wax, oil or concentrates.
Conference sponsors included Quest Recovery Prevention Program, Decatur Police Department, Riverside Family Health LLC, Decatur City Schools, Hartselle City Schools, MHV’s Rape Response advocacy Program and Morgan County Schools.
Conference attendees received continuing education credit.