I believe if two men had the ability to see the future of what the woman I would become they would of thought twice about locking me behind closed doors for their own sexual pleasure. A secret they thought would stay behind closed doors under their threats would one day be exposed in two books “Stolen Innocence & Living For Today” and Wednesday those secrets are exposed in front of the biggest audience I will ever have The Oprah Winfrey Show during her farewell season. Lucky for them I hold no hatred in my heart for either of them. For I learned in life anger, bitterness, and hatred gets you nowhere. Instead I fuel all my energy towards protecting the innocence of children from what I could not be protected from and ending the silence around sexual abuse by being a voice for the voiceless. One of those men took away my ability to cry about the abuse I endured because of the shame I carried. It took seeing Oprah Winfrey in her 20th DVD edition crying on national television in an interview with Truddi Chase to wake me up and realize crying was healthy. I thought if Oprah could cry about her abuse on national television then what do I have to hide.
I speak on a mission I have been going after for eleven years. I was 14 years old when I first wrote Oprah on the topic of sexual abuse and how it had impacted my life. I was in 8th grade and discussed how the abuse in my life had caused me so much shame and put in me in such a depression. I was called by producers and asked to come be in the audience on a show on teen depression. So my mother called me out of school that March day in 2000 and the two of us drove to Chicago where we had front row seats.
Since then I have written into the show hundreds of times on the same topic “Sexual Abuse”. Since I went public with my story 6 years ago with my first book I have been contacted by producers several times. One time it was a show on siblings who had been sexually abused. The problem was my younger sister was still in high school and did not want to appear on national television. So we ended up not doing the show. The next time it was on confronting your abuser. The producers were interested in the letters I exchanged with the relative that abused me. However two other sisters who had caputured their confrontation on camera ended up appearing on the show instead but I was apart of the audience during that show. I didn’t give up on my mission to put a face and voice on sexual abuse with Oprah because I knew I had a powerful message to tell and I just knew it my heart the impact it would have on Oprah. Because she had an impact on me as an 11 year old watching her show on sexual abuse and realizing I wasn’t alone in the silence I was carrying when I saw her interview other survivors.
I was contacted again about a show on forgiveness and how I forgave the relative that abused me. Then producers asked if this relative would appear on national television talking about forgiveness. I said “Heck no, I can answer that for him.” Well of course that was what they were looking for and my mission is not to expose his identity but expose the silent epidemic of sexual abuse. So I was no longer considered for that show and they eventually did find some abusers who appeared on a show about forgiveness.
I never did give up but I also did not write in constantly. I did not want to annoy Harpo staff. I only wrote in when I felt it was appropriate and there was a show they were looking at doing on sexual abuse. In October 2008 I was picked to be in a slide show of pictures on Oprah show about “Superwomen” My picture was disaplayed of me speaking at a podium and underneath it said Erin Merryn Sexual Abuse Advocate.
In my heart I knew the day would come and I live with the belief that you can accomplish anything you go after as long as you don’t give up. There are probably 800 emails under my name in a file at Harpo about me writing in on the subject of sexual abuse over the past 10 years. I put a lot if time and effort into getting a very important message heard and in the back of my mind I knew God would make it happen when the time was right. I put my trust in Him he would make it happen. With faith anything is possible. I think producers finally saw one determined woman who was not giving up.
On August 2nd while sitting in Caribou writing my 3rd book. I decided to take a break and look at Oprah’s website on current shows they were working on for her upcoming season. I had not written in for a long time and actually was looking to others to write in for me on the importance of the message I was trying to get across with my law “Erin’s Law“. I saw a category on the website for be on the show called “Were you a victim of child sexual abuse” They asked questions on the link about how sexual abuse changed you.
I briefly wrote in talking about how the abuse changed me and Erin’s law. The next day while back at Caribou I saw my phone go off. When I saw the 312 number and ending in 1000 I knew it was Harpo studios. That is what happens when you have received many calls from them. I answered it and it was a producer from Harpo. She asked me to take her through my story and for the next hour we spoke. She told me how well spoken I was and she was checking out my website. I was informed they didn’t have a direction the show was going but would be in touch. I hung up and didn’t get my hopes up. In fact I didn’t tell anyone a producer called me not even my family. The next day I got an email from the producer and every few days I would get another phone call or email from the producer. I still had not told anyone because I know how quickly the direction a show can change. A week and a half later I got a call from the producer asking me if I was aval. Sept. 2nd. I was warned Erin I know this sounds promising but we still don’t know the direction of the show. I told her I would make any day avaliable to get the interview of a lifetime to inspire Oprah and her worldwide audience. Now that they were asking me about a date I had to tell my family. After hanging up I informed my parents, sisters, and my publishing company.
I was told a few more times on the phone Erin I know this sounds very promising but we still don’t know what direction we are taking this show. I was still doing the best to keep my hopes down.
Finally at the end of August producer asked me if I was avaliable for an interview at home and then the following week I would do an interview at the studio with Oprah. Now I was on a high. Finally I was seeing my biggest dream of putting a face and voice come true. A camera crew came out to the house on August 25th and they were there from 10am-4pm. It takes awhile to set up camera equipment and I did a lot of talking to the camera. The producer was so comfortable with me talking and the camera crew even said I was so comfortable just talking into the camera where many people get nervous or often have to be directed on what to say. There is nothing like looking into a camera and saying “Hi Oprah this is Erin Merryn” knowing she was going to be hearing my message.
The next week a car picked up my sister and I on Wed. Sept 2nd at 6:30am. There were so many emotions running through me that drive down to the windy city. Once I arrived my sister and I were checked in my security and then taken upstairs to the green room. I must say the green room was cool. I never get nervous but that morning I was and I was too nervous to enjoy all the treats Oprah had in her green room but my sister made herself right at home with the food. 🙂 Of course she was just enjoying the moment she wasn’t the one about to do an interview with Oprah.
It was so surreal I was about to be talking to Oprah. I had been dreaming of this moment for so long and what kept going through my mind was I can’t screw this up. I was eventually greeted by a man from legal team and had to sign legal documents, hooked up to a mic, and then a make-up artist came to do my make-up. Eventually my sister and I were taken downstairs passing many big photos of Oprah over the years with many guests she has interviewed. I was brought into another green room where the producer I had been working with was talking to another guest that was to appear on the show going over what Oprah would be discussing with her. Eventually they were telling us the show was about to begin and the producer still had not spoken with me about what to expect Oprah to ask me. She looked at me behind stage and said “I am not worried about you at all, you have this.” I was told just moments before taking my seat in the front row of the audience that I could talk about “Erin’s law” but to keep it brief and to the point because that will prevent it from being edited out if I talked too long about it.
Next thing I know I am walking into a filled studio and taking my reserved front seat. The details of my interview can be seen Wednesday as I don’t know what they kept or edited out. I can say this I spoke with Oprah from my front row seat. I made Oprah cry and when she went to commercial break she turned to the audience “Now that Erin has me crying and all of you crying I need my make-up team out here.” Her make-up team came to her rescue. I really did not expect the reaction I got from Oprah. I knew I would inspire her but not to the point of tears and she kept looking at me during commerical breaks smiling at me. When the show was all over and the camera stopped rolling Oprah stood up on stage and told her audience “Erin is an inspiration to me in the work I have done on this for the past 25 years.” I eventually joined Oprah on stage after the show where she was giving me a big hug and we took a picture. Which I will eventually get sent in the mail to me. Not sure yet if I can post the photo online. If I can I will post it. Oprah stayed and talked to the audience for awhile after the show was done taping and got everyone laughing. I could tell when I was on stage with Oprah I could sense something in her that I moved her in a way I was not expecting. I feel I inspired her so much that I don’t think that is the last I will hear from Oprah.
Oprah supports the mission I am on and you will see that all unfold Wednesday. I am one of the last guests on the show to talk with Oprah. I didn’t talk long with her but I valued every second I got and felt I hit every point I wanted to make. You will not hear me talking about either of my books on the show, but you will hear me talking about the most important thing in the world to me right now. “ERIN’S LAW” I kept it brief and to the point just like the producer told me to. Just saying those words “Erin’s law” on her show makes me happy because it is going to move people into action and wake people up to realize we need to not just teach kids tornado drills, bus drills, fire drills, but also educate kids on sexual abuse in schools. Currently I have 3,300 fans of Erin’s law on facebook. Watch that number change come Wednesday.
My innocence could not be saved as a child, but I will do everything in my power to protect the innocence of the children in this world. My favorite saying is “My life is not define by evil but how I have risen above evil.” I will only continue to rise and none of this would be possible without my relationship with God. For with Him anything is possible. I am living proof!
Now lets continue to end this silent epidemic. You will be a witness to more people coming out of darkness and finding their voice after Wednesday show.
Watch a preview of Wednesday show here.
Driving home from Harpo Studios Sept. 2nd