What a day! What a success!
Thursday night just before 8pm I got word from Senator Tim Bivins that we would testify tomorrow morning before the senate education committee at 9am. That was going to make for a very early morning. I kept waking up all night then Chance woke me barking at 2am to be walked. Then finally got up at 3:30am. I drove my car to Dekalb, Illinois where I met with Chief Dan Langloss of Dixon Illinois. Together we drove down to the state capital of Illinois in Springfield.
On our ride down which was 3 hours Chief Langloss asked me if I am strong enough today to face my rapist from when I was nearly 7 years old. I told him I feel I have conquered him in my mind and there has been days where I would love to confront him and have him say to my face he didn’t do what he knows he did. At the very same time the thought of ever seeing that man scares the shit out of me because I do not know how I would respond since I have not seen him since I was 8 1/2 years old. Seeing the cousin that molested me from 11-13 does not freak me out because I have been crossing paths with him every year since the abuse began. It is different when the last time you saw your abuser was the last time they were abusing you. I shared with Chief Langloss and I have kept this to myself until sharing it with him yesterday that everytime I see an African American bald man I get freaked out. The problem is knowing Richard the rapist does still live in the area and knowing he is a free man that could be walking into a store or driving on the street the same time as me. Which is why I feel if I knew he was no longer living or I had that face to face confrontation, African American bald men would not make me jump, leave a store, or switch lanes while driving. It is that fear of what if that face that is burned in my memory suddenly does cross paths with me. A part of me would want to confront him another part of me would want to run as far away as possible and not stop running. I hope if that day ever did happen I don’t run and I face that man I fear seeing again.
When we arrived at the capital we met with Senator Tim Bivins in his office and discussed how we would testify. Tim Bivins told me to keep it to 10 minutes otherwise you will either be cut off or lose the senators attention. He also encouraged me not to get angry that he has seen people testify who have been victimized get angry. I told him he had nothing to worry about that would not happen. Tim a republican informed me that democrats are the majority we will have the republican vote but there are only a few of them. So to do my best to convince the Democrats on this vote.
A little after 9am I sat before 13 senate education committee members. There was an audience behind me filled with people some were from the board of education, some were from DCFS, others I had no idea who they were. Tim sitting next to me spoke first then I started.
As a child I grew up in Illinois public schools where I got a great education. It was there I was taught about fire drills, tornado drills, bus drills, stranger danger, and DARE in 6th grade. If you completed DARE you got this card. (I lifted up my 6th grade DARE card) The card meant you completed the DARE program and agreed to say no to drugs. On the back of this card it reads the 8 ways to say no to drugs. Where were the 8 ways of how to get away and how to tell today when someone is sexually abusing you. They never came and when I was weeks shy of my 7th birthday I sat in the bedroom of my best friends house playing when her uncle walked into the room and locked the door. This man went on to lift me up on the bed and rape me. 5 years later someone even closer in my life would abuse me this time a teenage cousin who molested me from 11-13 and warned me no one would believe me and this was our secret. Sexual abuse is a silent epidemic in our society. I was taught about stranger danger not to go look for that lost puppy or take candy. Yet the men who raped and abused me were not strangers and 90% of the time when a child is abused it is someone the child knows and the parents trust. Parents warn their kids about stranger danger majority don’t talk to them about sexual abuse because it is the message parents get protect your kids from strangers. I didn’t have to run out of a burning building as a child, I never had to take cover from a tornado, and it was not a stranger that killed my innocence. If someone would of talked in school about safe touch and unsafe touch I believe I would of spoken up as a child and not be victimized over and over again, but that day never came which is why I have taken my mission now to protect children from the childhood I could not be protected from . I fly all over the country speaking out on this epidemic and each time I speak in a classroom at a high school or college I ask them how many remember stranger danger, Dare, and all the drills in elementary school. Every single hand goes up yet when I ask how many remember someone teaching you in school about safe touch unsafe touch, safe secrets unsafe secrets, how to tell today how to get away, not a single hand in all these years has ever gone up. And everywhere I go after each time I speak someone comes up and breaks their silence whether it is a student or a grown man or woman. Erin’s law will give students the tools and knowledge to speak up if someone ever tries to touch them or does. Thank you all for your time I truly appreciate it.
You could not hear a pin drop in that room when I spoke they all applauded when I finished and then the chairman of the committee said “I will do anything you want!” Then a woman on the committee looks at me and says “Erin thank you so much for your courage and strength on speaking out on this, you are right this is an epidemic and children need to be educated on this.” She then stood up in front of the committee and said “I want you all to vote YES on this bill” Chief Langloss then did an excellent job testifying about what he has seen in his job working with sexual abuse cases and the statistics out there about sexual abuse. Moments later they all voted 13 yes/ 0 N0. We walked outside the room moments later as Tim Bivins shared with us he has never seen someone get an applause after testifying and could not believe the chairman just told me he will do anything I want. Senator Bivins said “You nailed that and could not have said it better, you wrapped it up so perfect and delivered the point across and timing was great. You had all of their attention.” He pointed out that I got all the feedback from the ones I needed to convince the democrats.
As we talked about our first accomplishment of the day a woman comes walking up and says “Erin I just want to say thank you so much for what you just did in there and what you are doing. She began crying and said I was sexually abused as a child and am so happy someone is doing something about it and then shared her story with me.
Senator Bivins later turned to other senators and said Erin said when she testified someone always approaches her and discloses their own story and sure enough we walk out of that room and a woman comes up and shares her story. I’ve been doing this long enough to know what to expect.
We went back to Senator Bivins office where we talk about what would happen next. The bill would be take to the senate floor to be voted on. Once voted by the senate if it passed it would go to the House where I would testify just like I did in the morning and if it passed in the House it would be sent to the Governor to be signed. So the waiting began….and it ended up turning into the longest day. I watched one senate bill after house bill be discussed and eventually voted on at the senate floor. Some bills took minutes to be voted on others the two sides argued out anywhere between 20 minutes to 45 minutes. This went on for hours and we were realizing the longer it was taking the smaller our chance was of getting it heard and passed by the Senate today and then hopefully on to the House to be voted on. A House member during the day picked up the bill to also sponsor the law which was great. I walked down on the senate floor with some senators even took a picture sitting at the front of the floor. Throughout my long day at the Capital I spoke with many different senators many telling me what powerful testimony I gave. Some asking about my books because Tim Bivins informed them I published two books. I met in the office of possibly our next Governor in November Bill Brady who is ahead in the polls. He heard all about my law and told me if there is anything he could do to help let him know. (Networking at the capital is good especially if they are in the seat to be the next Governor).
After hearing bills be voted on all day by 6pm they were down to their final 4 bills to be voted on. Senator Bivins sent me a text around 5pm sitting on the Senate floor waiting for our bill to come up saying “I told you being a state senator is not all that glamorous!” haha! They saved the best for last SB2843 Erin’s Law. Senator Bivins addressed the Senate on the bill at 6pm. The voting began and I watched the two huge screens light up 55 Yes/0 No. Passed
Because it was the final day for session of this year Erin’s law will not be heard by the House until November. I will come back to Springfield and testify where voting will take place and Erin’s law will be taken to the Governor to be signed into law. Tim Bivins feels confident after the way I testified today to the senate that the house will pass it once they hear me and to be honest I feel pretty confident too. We honestly didn’t think things would happen so fast after all I met with Tim Bivins for the first time 3 weeks ago and to put something together right before they all adjourn for the summer was amazing.
If this was a game of baseball I would say we are on 2nd base. We will move to 3rd base when I report back to you all that the House passed the bill on to be signed by the Governor when we get our home run. The grand slam will come in a few years when I get Erin’s law passed in all 50 states. Don’t even doubt me…watch me make it happen!
In the meantime I have many people to speak with from Springfield and other connections to look into the task force of Erin’s law.
I made it home by 10:30pm. For a day that began at 3:30am I would say we had a very successful day!
Check out the link below on Erin’s Law.