DALLAS, June 22, 2013 — Twenty-eight year old Erin Merryn is in the fight of her life to protect the children of New York State from predators. She is armed with an unmatched courage and bottomless compassion in her effort to pass “Erin’s law,” which provides child abuse education for grades pre-K through eighth grade.
A survivor of child abuse, Erin Merryn battled the trauma of being molested by a friend’s uncle and her cousin and fought back against the depression and pain of having her innocence stolen and hopes and dreams vandalized. Trapped in a prison of silence, she searched for the strength to speak of her ordeal and clung to the hope of one day emerging from the darkness that had eclipsed all hope from her life. She sought solace in the pages of a small journal where she wrote of her daily struggle and prayed for it all to be just a bad dream and to wake up and be able to smile again.
Erin’s journey took a dramatic turn when her sister told her the same relative was also molesting her. The need to protect her sister overcame the intense fear that had kept her silent for so long, and Erin confided in her parents the dark secret she had carried inside her for so long. The friend’s uncle and her cousin were arrested and brought to justice, but Erin’s fight to save her sister and reclaim her innocence turned into something bigger.
The journal that had been Erin’s only friend and confidant for so many years became the book, “Stolen Innocence,” published in 2005, and within its pages Erin shared her darkest hours and greatest triumphs in her struggle against the trauma of her abuse.
The publication of her first book was only a starting point for Erin as she began her new quest to protect all children from the stealth predators who seek out and entrap the innocent. In 2010 she helped to create “Erin’s law,” which educates children in grades pre-K through eighth grades about child abuse. She has traveled across the country promoting Erin’s Law, and through her tireless efforts, seven states have now passed it. This year, Glamour magazine voted Erin Merryn their woman of the year for her unrelenting advocacy on behalf of victims of child abuse.
New York State has previously failed to pass Erin’s law and on June 24 the New York State Assembly will vote on it once again. It has already cleared New York State Senate but faces opposition on its passage by the State Assembly. Erin’s law is critical to the protection of the children of New York State.
In 2010 the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment reported 79,668 children were victims of abuse or neglect in the state of New York, and 114 children died as the result of abuse. These numbers are misleading, because one report could involve several children who were abused. They also indicate a 1.6 percent increase in reports of child abuse and a 4.4 percent increase in the number of deaths from child abuse. Of the children who died as a result of abuse, almost 50 percent were younger than one year old, and 80 percent of the children who died were less than four years old. This is a tragedy that should haunt everyone’s conscience.
Jerry Sandusky has shown us how vulnerable our children are and that predators are masters of deception, and the burden of reporting is placed in the arms of a traumatized young child victimized by an adult. The research tells us that every child molested by a pedophile has to tell an average of seven adults before they are believed. Nationally, one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of child abuse and there are a total of 42 million survivors of child abuse. The Centers for Disease Control studied the lifetime costs for the victims of child abuse reported in one year and that cost is $124 billion. That cost includes treatment and care for the increased rates of drug addiction, alcoholism and depression that victims of child abuse suffer. It also includes the cost of the increased rates of conviction for crime and the cost of the suicides that result from the trauma of child abuse.
Erin’s law is the first line of defense in saving the innocence of the children of New York State and across America. It will empower parents and children with the knowledge they need in the fight against pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky. The costs of child abuse run deeper than the pockets of any state and of any country. I know from personal experience.
When I was just five years old, my stepfather began to molest me sexually and that abuse lasted for nine years. I desperately tried to tell adults that I thought would save me from the hell I was trapped in, but like many victims, I was not believed. My mother was an alcoholic, and in her constant haze that kept her distant from reality, she never answered my pleas for help. She spent her life inside a bottle as I was being molested, sometimes in the next room. I tried to run so many times and succeeded for months at a time before the police handed me back into the arms of my abuser. I have dedicated myself to fighting for those children who have no voice, and my one goal in this life is to save as many children as I can from the hell I endured.
Erin Merryn and I share that passion to protect the children of New York State and to continue that fight until all fifty states have passed Erin’s law. Erin and I need your help to protect the children of New York State and to let the New York State Assembly know that there is nothing more important than the innocence of our children. They are our greatest treasure and we should protect them with every means at our disposal and stop the next Jerry Sandusky before it is too late.
You can contact New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver at 212-312-1420 or 518-455-3791 and ask him to vote yes on Erin’s law. You can also contact the other Assembly members by phone or e-mail by clicking on their name on the following list (http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/). Please let them know that no child should be left unprotected in New York State!
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