Living for Today: From Incest and Molestation to Fearlessness and Forgiveness
I was born at home 27 years ago after putting my mother through 57 hours of all natural labor.
The incredible story of my birth is just the beginning of the life I have been given. I believe we all are born with a purpose and I found my purpose in life through some unimaginable events.
I am a sexual abuse survivor and advocate for a law that would bring mandatory education on sexual abuse to students, in hopes that they may not suffer the way I did.
I am just one of an estimated forty two million people in America who have survived sexual abuse. Twenty years later, I can remember it like it happened yesterday.
Every year I was educated in school on tornado drills, fire drills, and bus drills. As a child I never had to take cover because of a real tornado. I never had to stop, drop, and roll or run out of a burning building.
I never had to evacuate a school bus due to an emergency, but I had the knowledge to know what to do if any of those situations happened.
Where was the drill on how to escape a child molester? Where was the lesson plan on sexual abuse, safe touches, and safe secrets? It never came.
I was not educated on “How to Tell Today or How to Get Away.” I didn’t have the vocabulary to tell anyone what was happening.
That was until March 29th, when my little sister came to me and told me she was also being molested. I knew then: my silence had to be broken.
In 2004, I began flying around the country telling my story of the sexual abuse I endured as a child. I published my childhood diary into a book called Stolen Innocence.
I had a mission: to wake up my friends, neighbors, town, lawmakers, country, and world.
Letting go of the shame and stigma, and allowing the past to motivate me, I am now on an unstoppable crusade to end the silence around the silent epidemic of sexual abuse in our world and force a change that will mandate education across America for children on sexual abuse prevention.
I worked to create a law called "Erin's Law" in January 2010. It was passed in the Illinois State Senate in May 2010, in the House in November 2010, and then was sent to the Governor on December 17, 2010.
Erin's law was signed by Governor Pat Quinn on February 14, 2011. Erin's law never received a vote against it in the Senate or House.
Erin's law will provide age-appropriate curriculum for kids on sexual abuse, pre-k through 5th grade.
My goal is to see Erin’s Law legislation passed in all 50 states. It was signed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon in July 2011. And there are currently a dozen states introducing and voting on Erin’s Law right now.
I cannot change the past, so I focus on the future. We need change to protect children.
I envision a future where children in my state, country, and across this world are not failed the way I was failed as a child.
I do not wish to see another generation go uneducated on how to report sexual abuse to an adult until it stops.
Every child deserves the right to have their minds, bodies, and innocence protected. They just need to be educated on how.
Erin Merryn is author of Stolen Innocence and Living for Today, both memoirs about incest and rape. Erin earned her Master’s degree in social work from Aurora University in May 2009. Erin began a crusade her senior year of high school in spring 2004 to end the silence and shame around sexual abuse by traveling the country giving inspiring and motivational speeches at national conferences, community events, colleges, high schools, child abuse and sexual assault conferences. She has appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, CNN, Jane Velez Mitchell, and Montel. She has appeared in London Times, Time Magazine, Cosmo Girl Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, and numerous other state newspaper and radio interviews. She is the force behind Erin’s law in Illinois. Erin’s law will educate children in Illinois public schools on sexual abuse through age appropriate curriculum pre k-5th grade. Erin’s mission is to shatter the silence and stigma around sexual abuse and educate children and adults by empowering them with their voice.