School children are taught about the dangers of drugs and bullying. They routinely participate in lockdown drills and fire drills. And they learn about the risks strangers can pose.
But most schools do not teach children about sexual abuse. Legislators and a nationally known advocate against child sex abuse are hoping to change that. They are pressing for a law that would mandate that local school boards adopt an age-appropriate child sexual abuse awareness program.
\”We give kids all this important education but the one message we fail to teach kids is how to speak up and tell if they\’re being abused,\’\’ Erin Merryn, a sexual abuse survivor said at a press conference at the legislative office building Friday.
Merryn was sexually assaulted by a neighbor for two years, beginning at age 6 . At 11, she was repeatedly raped by a family member, until she was 13.
Merryn now travels across the nation, speaking out in support for state laws similar to the one under consideration in Connecticut this year.
Several states, including Utah and Merryn\’s home estate of Illinois, have passed laws; legislation is currently pending in 26 others.
More than 90 percent of all child sex abuse incidents are perpetuated by someone who knows the victim, said state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague. \”This provides information so they can learn to say no and tell people what\’s going on,\” she said.
The bill would require the state to develop a child sexual abuse and assault awareness program by Jan. 1. The program would include \”age-appropriate\” educational material for pupils in grades 2-5. It would permit the pupils\’ parents or legal guardians to \”opt out\” of the program if they notify the school board in writing.