11 months ago I wrote a letter to the Governor of Illinois about Erin’s law.
Erin’s law now sits on his desk a signature away from my goal!
Check out the story in tomorrow’s Daily Herald (Chicago paper) Chicago Tribune will be covering Erin’s law this week also. Link below.
Dear Pat Quinn,
My name is Erin Merryn I am a 24 year old who was born and raised in Schaumburg, Illinois. We met in Chicago at the Children’s Advocacy Center this past June at a press conference we were both speaking at. I had the privilege of getting an excellent education in Schaumburg School District 54 and 211. As a child in school I was educated on fire drills, tornado drills, bus drills, and lock-downs. An officer came in every year throughout elementary school teaching my classmates and I not to take candy from a stranger or follow the man looking for the lost puppy. There was a strong message about stranger danger sent throughout my childhood. While I feel I received a wonderful education that prepared me to go on to college and get my BSW and MSW there was one lesson plan I feel would of saved me from having my childhood innocence taken from me. I am now on a crusade to get “Erin’s Law” passed to save the children in schools across Illinois and I hope you will support me in getting this passed.
I was 6 years old sleeping over at my best friend’s house when I woke to her bedroom door opening and her live-in uncle walking in. This grown man went on to sexually abuse me that night. At that young I had no concept of what had happened and did not tell anyone. Confusion came over me and I began acting out in school. Nearly a year later on a cold January day in 1992 I went to play with my best friend during the day at her house. We sat playing dolls with her dollhouse when my friend got up to use the bathroom. Moments after she left I heard her bedroom door closing and in walked her uncle who was the only adult in the home at the time. Fear consumed me as I watched him lock the door and tell me to come over by the bed. He forced me up on the bed where I struggled to get him off me. He threatened to tie my arms to the bed if I did not stop kicking. As my childhood friend rattled the door trying to unlock it I began screaming at the top of my lungs as this monster raped me. 18 years later I can remember that horror as if it took place yesterday. I was showing all the signs in school of a child abused. I had an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for my behavior because I had so much anger and rage. A few weeks after the rape I would put my hand through a window after my sister pulled off my shoes the same way this rapist did when he raped me. He never threatened to hurt my family but warned me that he knew where I lived. Two years later I moved to a neighborhood two minutes away and started at a new school. Little did I know just as I thought I was getting away from one monster I would be getting that much closer to the next monster in my life. This time it was a monster in my own family.
At 11 years old I woke up in the middle of the night to my teenage cousin sexually abusing me. It was just the beginning of a new nightmare that continued for a year and a half while I babysat my younger cousins, during holiday parties, and family gatherings as my cousin locked me in bedrooms, bathrooms, basements, and closets. I was threatened by my cousin that this was our secret, no one would believe me, and I had no proof. I was afraid, confused, and felt so alone keeping my secret. At 13 my little sister came to me with the same secret. The same cousin was also sexually abusing her. Together we broke our silence. He later confessed in police custody. Our large extended family was never the same. Just months before graduating high school I published my first book Stolen Innocence. Sharing how incest affected my life, family, schoolwork, and the emotional toll it had on my life that resulted in a suicide attempt, self-injury, depression, nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks. Eventually I confronted my cousin and forgave him. I began flying across America speaking at national conferences, high schools, colleges, community events, and appearing on national television Good Morning America and Montel Williams to put a face and voice on a silent epidemic. Yet I was still withholding one chapter of my childhood from the public eye, the rape right before my 7th birthday. I went on to confront that chapter of my life in my 2nd book Living For Today. That was published in November. My friend’s uncle plead the 5th with police. I feel justice will come maybe not in this lifetime but I am finding justice through my voice now. A voice I hope you will support in getting heard.
I describe in my 2nd book my mission to get “Erin’s Law” passed that requires schools to implement education and prevention in schools to children on sexual abuse. A policy that increases student, parent, and teacher awareness on sexual abuse that educates children in a child friendly manner about safe touch and what are safe secrets to keep. The truth of the matter is we can never stop child sexual predators. This evil will always exist and parents cannot have their eyes on their children at all times. While we cannot end this evil we can give children the knowledge to use their voice, tell an adult, and hopefully escape from being hurt. We need to stop ignoring this epidemic and put it on the table and start talking and informing children and that will only happen if it is mandated by law to school districts. By law school districts across America must do tornado drills and bus drills every year. We run these drills for the safety of children in case they ever need to use it. So why not mandate a law that can protect their innocence. I never had to stop, drop, and roll as a kid but I was educated on what to do in a fire. I never had to cover my head and get away from windows because of a tornado, but I was educated on what to do if the sirens went off. I never had to evacuate a school bus but I was drilled all the way up to my senior year how to evacuate safely. I was never approached to go look for a lost puppy by a stranger and 90% of the time when a child is abused it is not by a stranger but someone the child knows and trusts. I WAS raped and sexually abused as a child by two individuals I knew and trusted but was NEVER educated on safe touch/unsafe touch and safe secrets/unsafe secrets. I believe if I was educated on sexual abuse I would of not waited years or into adulthood to break my silence.
I cannot get my childhood back and the innocence that was stolen from me. However I can see something terrible I endured as a child turned into something positive by protecting other children from what I never learned as a kid. I believe everything happens for a reason and feel there was a plan for me to grow up and be a voice to protect children. I hope you will not ignore this letter and help me in putting a voice to the child I once was and the millions of children across Illinois that will be protected or speak out because of “Erin’s Law.” I look forward to your help in seeing this become a law and Illinois be an example for this country.