ST. PAUL - A local abuse survivor is pushing for Erin’s Law, which would require schools to spend an hour per year teaching kids how to spot and speak about sexual abuse.
It’s a law that’s being passed all across the country, but advocates say Minnesota is behind the curve.
April Kane, a Minneapolis woman who survived sexual abuse as a child, has been lobbying lawmakers for three years.
“We have a persistent, immediate crisis of the sexual exploitation of children in Minnesota,” Kane said.
“Nine out of ten of these children are abused by someone they know. It can be a family, a parent, a neighbor and so we need this taught in the schools.”
Kane says she kept silent about the abuse because she didn’t know what to say.
“I had no vocabulary to describe sexual abuse,” she explained. “And my mother had no awareness.”
Erin’s Law was first spearheaded by Erin Merryn, a sexual abuse survivor from Illinois. The law has been passed in 28 states and Merryn says she believes at least 6 more will pass it this year. It has been introduced in almost every state in the country.
She says “there is a lot of resistance in Minnesota,” where she’s been advocating for the law since 2012.
Kane has encountered it too. “It's very frustrating. In three years there hasn't even been a hearing on Erin's Law,” she told KARE.
That could change this year. Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea) is authoring a version of the bill in the Minnesota House.
Bennett’s bill is not a “mandate” like in other states. However it encourages schools to develop curriculum and seek federal funding. It also would provide for further study of what schools are already doing.
“We need to help children have a voice to empower them to speak up. That's what this bill is all about,” she said.
Bennett is reluctant however, to add any more mandates to school districts.
“We need to do things in steps and increments here,” she explained.
Schools that adopt the programs could apply for federal grants aimed at preventing child abuse, meaning Erin’s Law would not add cost to districts.
Kane says she still has been unable to find a Republican sponsor in the Minnesota Senate. She won’t give up trying though. Every new case of abuse she reads about hits close to home.
“I cannot rest until we help the children of Minnesota,” she said.