LANSING—Legislation sponsored by Sen. John Proos to help prevent the sexual abuse of children in Michigan was signed into law by the governor on Wednesday.
“Erin’s Law is about preserving the innocence of childhood, which is supposed to be a time when a child can learn, play and enjoy life – free of the dark realities of adulthood,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “This innocence is sadly stolen from many children, with estimates that as many as 25 percent of girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused by age 18.
“I sponsored Erin’s Law as a father, wanting to do all I can to protect every Michigan child from having to endure such abuse. Equally important is that we ensure that if anything does happen to them or one of their friends, they can recognize it and be empowered to report it.”
Public Acts 593-595 of 2012 are named “Erin’s Law” after Erin Merryn, a sexual abuse survivor from Illinois whose advocacy in her home state led to the passage of a similar law there in 2011. After going public about abuse by a family member, Merryn made it her mission to try to ensure that children have the age-appropriate education to recognize and talk about sexual abuse.
“Educating kids on sexual abuse prevention in schools is the best way to empower kids to tell so abuse won’t go on for years the way it did for me,” said Merryn. “My voice was silenced. I am on a mission to make sure no other child has their voice silenced and innocence stolen the way mine was.”
Oakland University basketball coach and sexual abuse survivor Beckie Francis supported the initiative.
“I’m so grateful for Senator Proos, Erin Merryn and all those who voted in favor of protecting kids,” said Francis, who broke her silence in 2012. “I have no doubt that Erin’s Law will save so many kids. I feel like a kid who spoke out and you all listened!”
PAs 593-595 allow school boards to adopt and implement policies addressing child sexual abuse and create a one-time Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children to make recommendations on how to best prevent child sexual abuse in Michigan.
Schools could adopt age-appropriate curriculum, train school personnel on child sexual abuse, and adopt policies concerning informing parents on the warning signs of abuse. Parents would be made aware of the curriculum and be able to “opt out” if they did not want their child involved.
“As a father, I want to thank Erin Merryn for her bravery and leadership and applaud Governor Snyder for helping all Michigan children get the education and support they need to identify sexual abuse and get help,” Proos said.
For more about Erin’s story, visit her website at www.erinmerryn.net.
Editor’s Note – A photograph of Merryn and Proos testifying on Erin’s Law is available by visiting Sen. Proos’ website at: www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Photowire.”
Audio comments by Proos on Erin’s Law are also available online.