Washington may introduce sexual abuse prevention into K-12 curriculum

The state of Washington may be introducing sexual abuse prevention classes into its curriculum. This change would be implemented through a bill called Erin’s Law, which is named after childhood sexual abuse survivor and sexual education activist Erin Merryn. In 2015, the National Conference of State Legislatures dictated the full details about the law at a time where 28 different states had adopted the bill. According to the site, Erin’s Law is designed to “enact legislation requiring states to either study or develop age-appropriate child sexual abuse identification and prevention curricula for pre-k through fifth, eighth or 12th grades to help children, teachers and parents recognize and identify child sexual abuse.”
The website also stated, “The legislation also generally provides for some type of referral, counseling or safe way for children to report incidences of child sexual abuse and requires training for school personnel. Many states have also required task forces to further study the issue and provide statewide recommendations.”
The first instance of this bill being passed was in Illinois in 2011, the state from which Erin Merryn herself heralded. In a press release, Merryn stated, “The time is up. We must not let another year go by with Erin’s Law dying in Washington. There are precious lives waiting to be saved from abuse. Did we learn anything in the wake of the #METOO movement? Over 150 U.S. gymnasts were victims of sexual abuse by a trusted doctor. Had these girls been educated, we would be looking at a lot less victims right now. Washington needs to do the right thing and pass Erin’s Law now.”
The bill, which takes the name HB 1539, was sponsored by Republican Rep. Gina McCabe. During a floor debate, she said, “We teach our children in schools K-12 what to do in the event of an earthquake, what to do in a fire drill, or stranger danger. But we’re not teaching our children what to do in the event of being sexually assaulted. I implore you today to let us be the voice for the kids who are too scared to speak.”
HB 1539 would be voluntary in the sense that the Washington schools will not be required to teach it through basic education funding. Rather, the law would ensure that the curriculum and tools for such courses would be required to be available for any schools who were interested. Of the 31 states who have currently implemented the law, three of them have been voluntary. In an article by the Bellevue Reporter, Merryn said that while she supports the Washington bill as a first step, she would like to see it become a requirement.
The article also states statistics from the United States Department of Justice. According to these statistics, a majority of sexual perpetrators are known to the victim with around 30 percent of them being family members. It is also estimated that 23 percent of sexual assault cases are committed by minors. The article describes that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before they reach the age of 18, a fact cited from the Centers for Disease Control. Anybody who has experienced sexual assault can reach the Rain National Sexual Assault hotline at (800) 656-4673.