Did you see our recent Letter to the Editor in the Daily Chronicle?  Read the full text of our letter below:

We all owe a great debt to a woman that many of us have never met.  You may not even know her name, but if you have a child who attends a public school, we certainly hope you have heard of her law.  Erin Merryn is a survivor of child sexual abuse and her tireless work led to the passage of Erin’s Law in Illinois five years ago.  Erin’s Law mandates that all students in public schools receive at least annual education on child sexual abuse and body safety.  The education is age-appropriate and progressive so students learn more and more each year about how to keep themselves safe.

We cannot sweep child sexual abuse under the rug and pretend that this issue does not exist.  You only have to turn on the news to be reminded of the dangers in our world.  From the recent trial of Dr. Nassar, the sports physician who abused hundreds of young gymnasts in his care to the cases we see in our own community, we know these dangers are present.  We want our children to be safe.  We want our families, schools, and communities to be safe places for them.  We want every child to grow up happy and healthy.  The way to achieve this, however, is not to ignore the risks, but to have open and frank discussions with our children about consent, body autonomy, and safety.

We have said it before and we will say it again: abuse thrives in silence.  Erin Merryn was afraid for many years.  She was afraid to speak out and afraid that she wouldn’t be believed.  Part of her deepest motivation to create and pass Erin’s Law was so other children would come forward and tell an adult about the abuse that they’ve endured, knowing that they would be heard, believed, and helped.  We at Safe Passage are proud to be a part of that effort.  We are proud to work with local schools to provide the mandated child abuse prevention education.  We are proud to work with survivors of child sexual abuse to help them process and heal.

If you lived through abuse as a child or if you have a child who has lived through abuse, please know that help is available.  No matter when the abuse occurred, our free and confidential services, including counseling and legal advocacy, are available to you 24/7.  Call our hotline at 815.756.5228 to talk to someone and take the first steps toward healing.

We are grateful to Erin Merryn for her advocacy and tireless work on behalf of all children.  We look forward to the day when Erin’s Law is passed in all 50 states and we are proud of Illinois for leading the nation in signing Erin’s Law five years ago.  We are working toward a world where no child is ever abused and we will continue to speak out until that world becomes a reality.

Mary Ellen Schaid

Executive Director

Safe Passage