Governor signs ‘Erin’s Law’ to target child sexual abuse


A new law inspired by the efforts of a brave young Illinois woman and sponsored by Senator Tim Bivins will help raise the awareness of child sexual abuse.

Signed February 14 by the Governor, Senate Bill 2843 creates “Erin’s Law” in Illinois. It allows school boards to adopt and implement a policy addressing child sexual abuse and creates a Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children.

“A brave young woman named Erin Merryn, who was sexually abused as a child, has been working to increase teacher, student, and parent awareness about child sexual abuse,” Senator Bivins said. “She came to the Capitol in November to testify in support of this new law, which will provide information in age-appropriate formats and help children understand what is – and is not – appropriate behavior. I am proud to sponsor this law on behalf of Erin and all children in Illinois. We must stop the cycle of abuse.”

Sponsored in the House of Representatives by Representative Jerry Mitchell of Sterling, “Erin’s Law” was passed by unanimous votes of the Senate and the House in 2010.

The first part of the new law permits school boards to adopt and implement a policy addressing sexual abuse of children that may include:

* age-appropriate curriculum for students in pre-K through 5th grade;

* training for school personnel on child sexual abuse;

* educational information to parents or guardians provided in the school handbook on the warning signs of a child being abused, along with any needed assistance, referral, or resource information;

* available counseling and resources for students affected by sexual abuse; and

* emotional and educational support for a child of abuse to continue to be successful in school.

Discussion should focus on methods for increasing teacher, student, and parent awareness of issues regarding sexual abuse of children, including knowledge of likely warning signs indicating that a child may be a victim of sexual abuse; actions that a child who is a victim of sexual abuse should take to obtain assistance and intervention; and available counseling options for students affected by sexual abuse.

Senator Bivins said there are groups in Illinois that are already offering information to raise awareness about child sexual abuse, but there is no uniformity in content or programs across the state.

The second part of the new law creates the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children to establish strategies for reducing child sexual abuse throughout Illinois.

The Task Force will:

* gather information concerning child sexual abuse throughout the state;

* receive reports and testimony from individuals, state and local agencies, community-based organizations, and other public and private organizations;

* create goals for state policy that would prevent child sexual abuse; and

* submit a final report with its final strategic goals and plans to the Governor and the General Assembly by January 1, 2012.

The recommendations may include proposals for specific statutory changes and methods to foster cooperation among state agencies, and between the state and local governments.

The Task Force will serve without compensation, and will be abolished when it submits its final report to the Governor and the General Assembly.


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