Yahoo Parenting -Erin Merryn met with some of the Duggar children in 2013 to discuss sexual abuse prevention at the request of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. (Photo: Erin Merryn)
Erin Merryn is a mother and an advocate for sexual abuse prevention. At age 6, she was molested and later raped by a friend’s uncle. At 11, her teenage cousin began abusing her. The author of three books about abuse, she is the creator of Erin’s Law, which requires public schools to teach sexual abuse prevention. In 2013 — 11 years after Josh Duggar first told his parents he had “inappropriately touched” five girls, four of whom were his sisters — she met with the Duggar family to discuss safe and unsafe touching, not knowing the family’s own history with abuse. Merryn opens up to Yahoo Parenting about the text messages she exchanged with Michelle Duggar this week, the surprising reason why the Duggar girls might be protecting their brother, why the parents are partially to blame for Josh’s alleged repeated molestations – and her own painful experience with childhood molestation.
You’ve met the Duggar family before, and have spoken to some of their children about sexual abuse. How did that first meeting come about?
I was the keynote speaker at a child abuse fundraiser that they were attending. Michelle and Jim Bob approached me afterwards and they said, ‘We love what you’re doing, we want to help you get Erin’s Law passed in other states, we want to help you gain contact with the right legislators.’ And then they left. But 10 minutes later they came back in and said, ‘Erin, we know it’s late, but is there any way you can come to our house and talk to our kids about Erin’s Law?’ So for two hours on September 24, 2013, I sat with nine of their kids, telling them about safe touches, about how people shouldn’t touch you in areas that fall under a swimsuit, and what types of secrets you should tell adults immediately. Only nine of their kids were there – the younger ones. The girls who were abused were out of town, and Josh wasn’t living there at the time. He was already living in DC.