Rep. Gina McCabe is continuing her efforts this year to get Erin’s Law, a bill that would help establish age-appropriate, sexual-abuse prevention curriculum in schools, enacted into law.
House Bill 1539 would form a task force to create the curriculum for grades K-12, as well as identify funding sources to implement the curriculum.
McCabe, the bill’s sponsor, says teaching students how to speak up and escape abuse should be an integral part of their safety education.
“Erin always says that we teach our students how to stay safe in fires or earthquakes, D.A.R.E. programs, and ‘stranger danger,’ but we don’t teach them what to do if they’re being sexually abused,” said McCabe, R-Goldendale. “I agree with her. The numbers are staggering.”
Reports from the Centers for Disease Control estimate one in six boys and one in four girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.
The bill’s namesake is Erin Merryn, a childhood sexual abuse survivor and activist from Illinois. She has advocated throughout the nation for legislation that studies and implements sexual-abuse identification and prevention curriculum in grades pre-K-12. Should House Bill 1539 be enacted into law this year, Washington would be the 32nd state to implement Erin’s Law.
“The time is up. We must not let another year go by with Erin’s Law dying in Washington,” said Merryn. “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.”
Given the cutoff for bills to advance out of policy committees is Friday, Feb. 2, McCabe and Merryn are urging lawmakers to act now and pass the bill.
“I really hope we can be the thirty-second state to enact this bill into law,” McCabe said.
The bill has been given a hearing twice in the House Education Committee in the last two years, but it has yet to be brought forward for a vote of the committee.
During the bill’s hearing last week, Olivia Holderman, who has worked with McCabe on the legislation, testified in favor of the bill.
“I loved my grandpa. We did fun things together. We played games, we had tea parties. My grandfather was also a pedophile,” she said. “He hurt me. He made me do things I would never think about doing, and I was terrified. If Erin’s Law had been there, I could have told.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only 10 percent of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child.
The 2018 legislative session began Jan. 8 and is scheduled to run 60 consecutive days.