An increasing number of children are becoming victims of sexual abuse, inspiring a national initiative to increase awareness.
"I was abused as a kid, by two people I knew, and I was told as a kid to keep it a secret and not tell anyone,” says Erin Marryn.
Marryn has been lobbying legislatures all over the country to pass a bill known as “Erin’s Law,” which aims to make sexual abuse prevention classes a part of the curriculum for students, staff and administrators.
Her home state of Illinois is one of eight states that have enacted it.
Now Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) is teaming up with Marryn to get the law passed in Alaska.
"It leaves the direction up to the district in developing the program,” says Tarr. “It directs them to make it age appropriate, (and) it comes up with a program to teach teachers, staff and administrators to recognize signs of child sex abuse,” says Tarr.
The first-term lawmaker will file the bill before the legislature convenes January 21.
"We already have it as part of our curriculum for our students, we have it as awareness for staff, and all staff is trained on sexual abuse awareness as well,” says Melanie Sutton, the Coordinator of Health and Physical Education Curriculum for the Anchorage School District.
Sutton says beginning in kindergarten, students are taught about personal body safety. The instruction expands through grade levels, and students are eventually taught about appropriate peer-to-peer relationships.
ASD Spokesperson Heidi Embley says parents can opt out of any kind of sex education classes for their kids, but the district recommends every student complete the course.
Tarr's legislation would get sexual abuse prevention instruction mandated in all schools throughout the state.
While Erin’s Law passed with overwhelming support in most states, there was some pushback.
"He says, this is not a problem where I'm from (or) for my students,” Marryn said, referring to a superintendent in one of the districts of Illinois. “Three weeks later, front page of the paper, someone that worked in his school was arrested for sexually abusing children."
Marryn says she's willing to testify before the Alaska Legislature to convince them to pass the law.