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House Panel Advances ‘Erin’s Law’

By Adam Pinsker, Multimedia Political Reporter, apinsker@ktuu.com
Published On: Mar 28 2014 04:51:18 PM AKDT
Updated On: Mar 28 2014 04:53:19 PM AKDT

Eight months pregnant and thousands of miles from home, Erin Merryn shared a painful story Friday of child sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a neighbor. When her family moved, the nightmare continued.

JUNEAU -

Eight months pregnant and thousands of miles from home, Erin Merryn shared a painful story Friday of child sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a neighbor. When her family moved, the nightmare continued.

"This time it was a family member -- waking up in the middle of the night to this older cousin sexually abusing me,” Merryn said.

This isn't Erin's first time reliving those memories. She's spoken before dozens of state legislatures promoting a law 12 other states already passed: Erin’s Law. Her home state of Illinois was one of the first states to pass it in 2011.

"I come from Chicago, Illinois, and I am taking this bill across the country,” Merryn told the House Education Committee Friday.

The legislation would require every public school districts to create an age-appropriate curriculum for kindergarten through grade 12 on sexual abuse. It allows school districts to design lesson plans that would be best for the children in their communities, according to a release from the office of Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage).

Each curriculum should include warning signs of sexual abuse, referral and resource information, counseling and educational support, methods for increasing awareness of issues regarding sexual abuse of children, and actions a child may take to prevent and report sexual abuse or sexual assault.

"I think this is a good bill, and I think that we really need to do something, and we need to do it now,” said committee member Rep. Peggy Wilson (R-Wrangell).

The House Education Committee voted unanimously to pass Erin’s Law, but the bill could face a hearing before moving to the floor.

"I won't stop in getting this law passed in every single state,” Merryn told the committee. “I will come pound on your doors; you'll continue to see me, until we pass this law. I certainly hope you won't make me come back here with a newborn.”

Gov. Sean Parnell told Merryn he supports the law.  Sen. Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage) introduced the Senate version of Erin’s Law on Thursday.