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Illinois native fights for sexual abuse programs for children

A young survivor of sexual abuse who was raised in Illinois is working with policy makers around the country to help prevent other children from being victimized as she was. She is fighting to require schools to teach "age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault education."

Eight states have already passed Erin's Law - named for the young woman - while it is being considered in 19 others. A recent article on the Bolingbrook Patch website shows our own Governor Quinn signing Erin's Law. It requires Illinois schools to have a "child sexual abuse awareness program" for kids in pre-school through fifth grade.

Erin's Law's namesake feels strongly that kids need to be taught at an early age to speak up if they are being abused. She says that her abuse began when she was in first grade. She notes that although she regularly had to participate in tornado drills, fire drills and other safety preparations in her Illinois school, no one taught her how to speak up about what was happening to her. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control reports that one out of every six boys and one out of every four girls are molested before they are 18 years old.

The young activist disputes the contention by some that Erin's Law mandates the teaching of sex education to children before they are ready. She argues that it's not about teaching kids about sex, but "completely about personal body safety and empowering kids…"

In New Mexico, Erin's Law is gaining steam, with bipartisan support in the legislature and the "enthusiastic" backing of the state's governor. Aside from mandating the curriculum, it would provide education for teachers to help them spot the signs of a sexually abused child and how to report suspected abuse. Non-profit organizations even provide resources for such a program at little or no cost.

If children who are sexual abuse victims can speak up at a young age, perhaps some of these abusers can be apprehended before they can find another victim. In addition to pursuing criminal charges, sexual assault victims and their families have every right to pursue civil litigation as well. This can go a long way to covering the expenses of medical treatment and psychological counseling that victims may need. Some victims may also use a civil judgment to help fund efforts to prevent the abuse of others.

Source: KRQE.com, "Erin’s Law has support from Dems, GOP" Tina Jensen, Jan. 23, 2014

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