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Local Editorials

Turning pain into a purpose

Children will be better protected against sexual abusers because of Erin’s Law. A police chief and two legislators from the Sauk Valley helped win its approval. Congratulations to them and to the law’s namesake, Erin Merryn.

With significant help from the Sauk Valley, Erin’s Law, which will help children prevent or speak out against sexual abuse, has been fully implemented.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Thursday that will empower children in the event they are confronted by an abuser.

The law is named after Erin Merryn, a 27-year-old Schaumburg woman who suffered multiple years of abuse as a child.

A neighbor sexually abused Merryn when she was between the ages of 6 and 8. An older cousin sexually abused her when she was between the ages of 11 and 13.

School children are taught to be wary of strangers. In Erin’s case, both abusers were known to her. Schools and society at large did little to teach her, and other children, how to protect themselves from abuse perpetrated by people they know – which accounts for 93 percent of abusive acts against children, according to Merryn.

Erin’s Law will end the advantage that abusers have over young victims.

Illinois public schools will be required to educate all students, from pre-kindergarten through high school, about prevention and awareness of sexual assault and abuse. Age-appropriate curriculums will be used so that even younger children will be made aware of inappropriate behavior and encouraged to tell their parents and teachers about it.

It is Merryn’s dream that such education will greatly reduce what she calls a “silent epidemic” of child sexual assault and abuse.

The enactment of Erin’s Law happened with the help of Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss, now-retired state Rep. Jerry Mitchell, a Sterling Republican, and state Sen. Tim Bivins, a Dixon Republican. Langloss got Bivins and Mitchell involved after he saw Merryn speak 3 years ago in Dixon.

We salute Langloss, Mitchell and Bivins for their advocacy and sponsorship of this important legislation.

Gov. Quinn deserves credit for recognizing the value of Erin’s Law, versions of which were previously approved in four other states.

Quinn plans to help in another way. He invited Merryn to address a national meeting of governors in February. That opportunity could pave the way for action in other states to protect children from abusive family members and neighbors.

Merryn hopes the other 45 states will pass Erin’s Law.

“I’ve turned pain into a purpose to end the silence and to educate and preserve the innocence of children,” she said.

She has our admiration. Good luck.

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