Law empowers victims, schools with tools to combat sexual assault
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2014
JUNEAU – “Erin’s Law” continued to gain momentum today in the Alaska Legislature as it moved from the House Education Committee with unanimous support.
“With just over three weeks left in the legislative session, it’s great to see the outpouring of support from across the state and across the political spectrum for Erin’s Law in Alaska,” said Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage), the prime sponsor of the legislation (HB233). “I want to thank the committee for its support. It’s exciting to see this bill gain momentum, and hopefully we can put it into law this session. Every year we wait, we leave too many Alaskan children without the tools to protect themselves from sexual predators.”
The House Education Committee moved the bill this morning after testimony from Erin Merryn, the bill’s namesake, a victim of abuse who is working tirelessly to see the law passed in all fifty states.
“From ages six to eight, I was molested and raped by an adult neighbor and from 11-13 years old molested by a family member. The only message I got growing up came from these men to keep it a secret and nobody would believe me. Had someone taught me about safe touch, unsafe touch, safe secrets, and unsafe secrets, I would have known it was safe to tell. Instead I lived in my horror in silence. I am now on a mission to give children across this country the voice I never had as a child,” said Merryn. “It has been great to see the growing support for the legislation in this beautiful state.”
The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, along with many other groups and individuals, testified in support of the legislation. After the hearing in the House Education Committee, five committee members signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.
Just this week Tennessee became the twelfth state to pass Erin’s Law.
“I look forward to Alaska being that thirteenth state,” said House Education Committee Chairwoman Lynn Gattis (R-Wasilla). “This is so important that it far overcomes any superstition about that number.”
Erin’s Law would direct school districts to create age-appropriate curricula for kindergarten through grade 12. It allows the districts to create the curricula that would be best for the children in their communities. Curricula should include warning signs of sexual abuse, referral and resource information, counseling and educational support, methods for increasing awareness of issues regarding sexual abuse of children, and actions a child may take to prevent and report sexual abuse or sexual assault.
The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee for consideration. To further the momentum, the Senate Rules Committee introduced companion bill (SB216) in the Alaska Senate today.