Elgin resident to be featured in TLC documentary on child sex abuse
Erin Merryn has encouraged schools to educate students on child sexual abuse for more than five years, and now she'll be featured in a TLC documentary on the topic set to air Aug. 31.
"It's definitely something moms and dads need to sit down and watch after putting the kids to bed," Merryn, an Elgin resident, said of the television show. "And extra points go to parents who then have a conversation on sexual assault with their kids."
While Merryn, who was sexually assaulted as a child, will be the documentary's main focus, several additional survivors of childhood sexual assault will speak about their experiences.
Merryn says TLC approached her in June after news broke that Josh Duggar, of the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting," had inappropriately touched his sisters when they were younger.
Before the news broke, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar had encountered Merryn at an Arkansas speaking and book signing event and asked her to speak to their kids about child sexual assault.
Merryn says she spoke to nine of the Duggar kids in their living room regarding the importance of speaking up about sexual assault.
"I knew nothing about the family's secret then," Merryn said.
TLC reached out to Merryn after learning about her connection with the Duggars.
"Next thing I knew, I had 23 people in my house, and it was flipped upside down with camera equipment," Merryn said.
Merryn has traveled across the country asking states to adopt Erin's Law. Illinois adopted the law, which requires schools to teach students about sexual abuse, in 2013.
The goal, she says, is to to let people know sexual assault is something that should be reported.
"I've heard so many times when kids from the suburbs have come forward because of Erin's law," Merryn said.
Her law can only be adopted at the state level, Merryn explains, because states, not the federal government, set curriculum.
But now, Merryn is working with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, to pass legislation that would provide funding for the child sexual abuse education programs in schools.
"The biggest hurdle right now is this is an unfunded mandate," Merryn says of Erin's Law.
That means right now, the 26 states that have passed Erin's Law and do provide child sex abuse education require their schools to do so without any funding from the state.
"With this funding, schools don't have to worry about how they'll pay to educate kids using Erin's Law," Merryn said.
The proposal was introduced in the Senate June 24, and was assigned to a health and education committee.
Merryn says this is the first time this part of her initiative has been introduced at the national level.