Victim of child abuse to share her story with students, WKCAC group

By Rod Haxton, editor

Erin Merryn knows that sexual abuse is the great untold story in America.

As a victim of child abuse, she’s doing her part to help other victims come forward by sharing her story during two speaking engagements in Scott City.

Sponsored by the Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center, Merryn will be giving a program to students in grades 7-12 at Scott Community High School on Fri., Feb. 22, 10:00 a.m. She will also be featured speaker during a luncheon for the 100 Women Campaign on Sat., Feb. 23, at 11:30 a.m.

Merryn was the victim of abuse by a friend’s uncle between the ages of 6-8, and again by a teenage cousin when she was between the ages of 11-13 years. It was only after she and her sister, also a victim of abuse, were taken to an advocacy center in the Chicago area that she broke her silence.

“There was so much shame that consumed me. I was very depressed through junior high and high school,” says Merryn. “I even attempted suicide.”

However, there came a point where Merryn decided that rather than continue to victimize herself she was going to speak out on behalf of the victims of abuse.

“It made no sense to allow what another person had done to take away another day of my happiness,” she says.

But Merryn took another huge step. She decided to share her story through the publication of two books.

She had kept a diary while suffering through abuse from her cousin. Excerpts from that diary, detailing her abuse, recovery, relapse and reconciliation were published in “Stolen Innocence.” She followed that with the publication in November 2009 of “Living for Today,” which discusses the abuse from a friend’s uncle.

The 28-year-old says it was important to come forward with her story.

“It’s something that we, as a society, are afraid to talk about,” she noted. “Ever since I’ve begun speaking on this it’s amazing the number of grown adults who have come forward with their stories that had been buried for 20 or 30 years. Everywhere I go people come forward and break their silence.”

Today, Merryn is on a mission to see Erin’s Law passed in all 50 states. Erin’s Law will make age appropriate curriculum available to students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, helping them to understand “safe touch, unsafe touch, safe secrets and unsafe secrets.” The goal is to empower youngsters to speak out if someone tries to abuse them or already has.

“We’ve never been given the message to speak up and tell if you’re being abused. I got the same message from both perpetrators that no one will believe you,” she says. “That’s what happens to kids all the time.

“Without the protection of the law, these children aren’t being educated to tell; only brainwashed to keep a secret.”

Erin’s Law has been passed in Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Maine and Michigan. It has passed one house in the state legislatures in Pennsylvania, New York and Mississippi.

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