Lawmakers push for sexual abuse education as senator reveals pas - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Lawmakers push for sexual abuse education as senator reveals past abuse

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When Erin Merryn was 6 years old, she never thought what happened to her then, would bring her to the Mississippi.

"I used to carry so much shame about this. I never wanted to talk about it. It was a dirty uncomfortable topic," said Merryn.

Until age eight, she was sexually abused at the hands of a neighbor. Then from age 11 until 13, it was at the hands of a cousin.

"I was always taught stranger danger. Don't take candy from a stranger. Don't go look for the lost puppy. I was never warned about the people I know in my life that could hurt you. Ninety three percent of the time children are abused by somebody they know," said Merryn.

Now at 27, Erin, from Illinois is the face behind legislation before lawmakers known as Erin's Law. It's designed to create preemptive strikes against sexual abuse. On her state to state mission, five other states have already adopted Erin's Law. Democratic representative Tom Miles says Mississippi needs to follow suit. Miles is the lead author of the bill from the house which has gotten bipartisan support.

"It's a simple question. Do you want to be for children or do you want to be for sexual predators," said Miles.

The bill is set to put age appropriate educational programs in public schools from kindergarten through the fifth grade. It'll teach young children about what sexual abuse is and who to report it to.

"There are parents out there right now that are not having this conversation with their kids. I guarantee every single legislator knows a child that has been abused. They just don't know who they are," said Merryn.

For republican senator Nancy Collins it's even more personal. She's heading up the bill in the senate and says at age ten, she too was sexually abused.

"What it's about is the issue that every child needs to know that they're precious and valuable," said Collins.

There will be an opt out option for parents who don't want there child to be a part of the program, but Miles and Collins both hope parents understand what they call a lacking need.

"We want to make sure that we're protecting children and informing parents," said Collins.

"Mississippi is not a state that's going to stand for sexual predators," said Miles.

As it stands now, the bill would set up a task force to adopt a curriculum and have it in place by the beginning of 2015, to be used for the 2015-2016 school year.

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