A key bill on state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi’s docket has made it past both legislative chambers in Albany, and is now in front of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, awaiting his signature.
“Erin’s Law” is expected to require the education commissioner to work with the regents board to develop curriculum on preventing child sexual exploitation and abuse for students between kindergarten and eighth grade. The goal, according to Biaggi, is to help children identify and appropriately respond to sexual abuse.
“As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have deep gratitude for my colleagues in both houses for prioritizing the passage of Erin’s Law,” the senator said, in a release. “Today, New York State is taking a critical step to protect the safety of our children by investing in the necessary education to prevent childhood sexual abuse and trauma. This legislation will empower children to speak up if they feel unsafe by providing students with the tools to report instances of sexual abuse and prevent further harm.”
The bill is named for Erin Merryn, an activist against child sexual abuse.
“The passage of Erin’s Law is a tremendous, proactive step to fight against childhood sexual abuse,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz — a lead sponsor of the bill in the lower chamber, said in a release. “No child should ever have to wonder if their abuse is normal, and this legislation will go a long way towards teaching them how to recognize inappropriate behavior and building support networks that can help them through a traumatic time.”
Merryn herself commended the Assembly for finally getting the bill passed after seven straight years of it dying ahead of a vote.
“The children of New York will finally have a voice and be armed with the ability to speak up and tell if they have been abused because of this education they will receive once a year under Erin’s Law,” Merryn said, in a release. “Assemblyman Dinowitz promised me seven years ago when I came to Albany that he would never give up on this bill, and he didn’t. He kept to his promise.”
According to a staff memo on the bill generated by the Assembly, existing laws to teach children about dangers was limited primarily to interaction with strangers. However, more recent studies have revealed that child sexual abuse is typically committed by someone the victim knows, and not someone offering them candy from a van.
“I told New York legislators I would never go away until they passed this,” Merryn said. “Finally ... they did the right thing, and will now be the 37th state to pass Erin’s Law.