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updated: 11/2/2012 8:21 AM

Schaumburg woman among Glamour's Women of the Year

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  • Erin Merryn of Schaumburg, winner of the Daily Herald Person of the Year contest, published two books on child sexual abuse and worked to pass Erin's Law in Illinois.

      Erin Merryn of Schaumburg, winner of the Daily Herald Person of the Year contest, published two books on child sexual abuse and worked to pass Erin's Law in Illinois.
    Bill Zars/bzars@dailyherald

  • Video: Erin testifies in Pennsylvania

 

Talk about being in some esteemed company.

Schaumburg's Erin Merryn, whose mission to educate children about sexual abuse has been gaining nationwide momentum, will join the likes of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actress Selena Gomez and "Girls" creator and star Lena Dunham as recipients of Glamour magazine's Women of the Year.

Glamour Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive highlighted Merryn's story Thursday morning during a "Today Show" segment.

"She's a great role model ... and such a positive example," Leive said.

Merryn, 27, is being recognized for her tireless efforts to bring Erin's Law to all 50 states. The legislation, which has been passed in Illinois, Indiana, Maine and Missouri and is pending in several other states, encourages schools to educate children about sexual abuse and prevention.

Had there been some sort of curriculum in place when she was a young girl, Merryn said, she wouldn't have stayed silent when she suffered abuse at the hands of an adult baby sitter and later her older cousin.

"There are children going to bed tonight with the same secrets I had as a child," Merryn said. "So many kids don't have a voice, so I want to empower them to speak up."

Undeterred by some doubters at the beginning, the Schaumburg High School graduate left her job 2 years ago to fully commit to her cause. Her third book will be released in fall 2013, and she's on the road quite a bit, speaking at children's advocacy centers, conferences and various state capitols.

One of her next trips will be to New York City for a red-carpet awards ceremony Monday, Nov. 12, at Carnegie Hall. Merryn has been told to expect 3,000 people in attendance -- all will receive copies of her books -- along with interview requests from "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood." An exclusive dinner featuring the women and their guests of honor will follow the event.

Merryn got to choose the person who will present her award. Her selection remains top-secret for now, but Merryn did say top choice Julia Roberts had to decline because she's shooting a movie in Georgia.

Of all the honorees, who also include Annie Leibovitz and Ethel and Rory Kennedy, Merryn said she's most excited to meet gymnast Gabby Douglas, who's being honored as part of a Gold Medal Olympians group.

"I was just so in awe of her this summer," she said. "I grew up with a sister who did gymnastics her whole life, so I've always been interested."

There's also the crucial matter of what to wear.

Merryn's working with an entire style team at Glamour, which asked for her input by sending pictures of different looks and gowns.

"It's going to be so much fun, but I'm really looking forward to how this could lead to thousands more children being saved," Merryn said. "This is the biggest live audience I've ever spoken to in my life, and I know my words can move these powerful celebrities and politicians to take action."

Glamour's December issue is on newsstands now in certain regions, including the Chicago area.

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