Last month, the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 85, also known as Erin’s Law. The crux of this legislation is aimed at preventing and protecting youth from the potential of sexual abuse, an unfortunate and abominable topic, but one that I am passionate about addressing as the primary sponsor of HB 85.

Erin’s Law is a simple, straightforward approach to child sexual abuse prevention, but one that is far too often overlooked: educating our youth on what it means to be sexually abused.

The one thing that many of these unimaginable acts have in common is the fact that so many innocent youth do not speak up about what is happening, or their abuser convinces them that nobody will believe them if they do. As many as one in four girls, and one in six boys, are sexually assaulted before age 18.  However, despite the widespread occurrence of these horrific acts only one in ten children who are sexually abused tells someone.

Such was the case for the namesake of the legislation, Erin Merryn, who endured years of abuse from an extended family member, but never spoke up for fear of not being believed. It wasn’t until Erin realized that her little sister was also being abused that she felt the need to be a voice for the voiceless.

According to Erin, she is “one of those who will talk about it and will not let anything get in [her] way of bringing this epidemic in the spotlight.” And that’s exactly what Erin’s Law does, brings this issue to the forefront and forces us to stop thinking, “this will never happen to my child.”

If passed by the Ohio Senate, Erin's Law will provide age-appropriate curriculum for Ohio youth on personal body safety in kindergarten through 12th grade. Educating kids on safe touch, unsafe touch, safe secrets, unsafe secrets, and how to get away and tell somebody if they are being sexually abused.

The legislation will give every local school district the freedom to elect age-appropriate instruction on child sexual abuse prevention in the district’s health curriculum for students in grades K-12. This bill will allow schools to give students and staff the tools they need in order to understand, and hopefully prevent or defuse, circumstances of sexual abuse.

Erin’s Law has already passed in 26 states, and I am hopeful that Ohio will be able to be number 27 before the end of the year.

The lives of our most vulnerable generations need to be protected. The value of conversation must never be underestimated; it can mean a world of difference for a child faced with an unthinkable tragedy.

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