Gary Greenberg doesn’t rest on his laurels. The New Baltimore attorney who fought for 13 years to get the Child Victims Act passed in the state Legislature is turning his attention to another children’s crusade. This time it’s Erin’s Law.
Erin’s Law, under consideration in the state Legislature, would mandate sex abuse education for children in elementary and middle school. The bill is named after Erin Merryn, of Illinois, a childhood sexual assault survivor and now, author, speaker and activist. Greenberg, too, is a child sexual assault survivor.
Fittingly, Greenberg and Merryn are on the same wavelength. They are on a mission to convince state lawmakers to adopt Erin’s Law. It will allow all students in kindergarten through eighth grade in all public schools in the state to receive classroom instruction on how to protect themselves against child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse.
Parents and school personnel would also receive training and education.
Children would be taught the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching and how to report it to parents or teachers. Because most children are abused by someone they know, so the difference in what it means to be touched is crucial.
Training to report incidents of child sexual abuse would also enable earlier treatment of victims, which is key to their recovery.
Greenberg and Merryn hope the law will teach and encourage children to come forward much earlier so that adults can get them the help they need.
Left untreated, childhood sexual abuse can lead to issues such as substance abuse and mental health problems later on in life.
The state Legislature shouldn’t take 13 years to pass Erin’s Law, yet shockingly, the bill has been proposed in the state Legislature for several years, but has not gained the needed number of votes. This is unacceptable.
The good news is that the state Senate passed the legislation Monday night. Unfortunately, the bill remains stuck in the Assembly’s Education Committee. Half a loaf is better than none, so Monday’s vote offers a glimmer of hope.
As distasteful as it may seem to some parents and educators, teaching children to protect themselves against sexual predators is long overdue, because childhood sexual assault is not going to disappear by looking the other way.
This bill shouldn’t be trapped in the purgatory that held up the Child Victims Act for more than a decade. All children deserve to live their young lives without fear of assault or abuse. Erin’s Law ought to become state law in New York.