Sexual abuse prevention may soon be taught in state schools

One in four American girls -- and one in six boys -- will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nearly all of those children are victimized by someone they know and trust.

Erin Merryn told lawmakers in Olympia on Thursday that her first abuser was the uncle of a friend. He started raping her when she was 6 years old, during sleepovers.

“I didn’t know the difference between safe and unsafe touch, safe and unsafe secrets,” she testified. “Did I know how to tell my mom the next morning when she picked me up? No. No one had educated me on it."

Merryn was asked to speak to the House Committee on Education on behalf of Erin’s Law. Since 2010, Merryn has testified all over the country about the importance of adopting age-appropriate school curriculum that teaches children from kindergarten through grade 12 how to speak out about sexual abuse.

As a result of her efforts, Erin's Law has been implemented in 28 states.

Here in Washington, House Bill 15-39 is sponsored by Rep. Gina McCabe, of Goldendale.

“We teach a lot of things in school: fire drills and earthquakes,” McCabe said Thursday. "But we don’t teach kids to be safe, and we think that’s really an important piece that we’re missing.”

Erin's Law is supported by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

A task force would determine how it would be implemented here.

Meanwhile, Merryn vows to keep pushing for the law that bears her name in all 50 states.

“My innocence was stolen. My trust was taken,” she told lawmakers.“But the one thing I got back was my voice.

And I’m going to ensure every child in America and around the world knows how to speak up and tell.”

If passed, Erin’s Law could go into effect in schools across the state by the end of 2017.