Outspoken sexual abuse survivors Angela Rose, Founder and Executive Director of the national nonprofit Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE), and Erin Merryn, Glamour Magazine’s 2012 Woman of the Year, spoke at the Long Beach Memorial Hospital last Friday in order to bring awareness to the child sexual abuse epidemic taking place across this country.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in six boys and one in four girls will become victims of sexual abuse before they reach adulthood. Not only can this cause victims much pain and suffering later in life, but it can also cost them an estimated combined total of $450 billion a year when medical costs, lost quality of life, and medical costs are considered.
When she was just seventeen, Rose was kidnapped at knifepoint at a Chicago shopping mall and experienced sexual assault at the hands of her kidnapper. After eventually being let go by the perpetrator, Rose founded PAVE in February of 2001 as a response to the lack of activism in combating sexual violence.
Merryn was raped when she was just six years old and faced sexual abuse at the hands of a teenage cousin from the ages of 11 to 13. She is the sponsor of Erin’s Law, which requires schools to teach children how to protect themselves against sexual predators and the di!erence between safe and unsafe touching as well as the di!erence between safe and unsafe secrets.
“It teaches children [that] you don’t keep that secret if someone is touching you in the areas that your swimsuit covers you,” said Merryn.
Rather than pass it nationally all at once through Congress, Merryn has taken Erin’s Law state by state in order to gain support for it. The law has been passed in five states, including Merryn’s home state of Illinois, with similar legislation pending in at least seven other states.
“What I’ve learned in my research on Erin’s Law in California is Erin’s Law already exists here, [but] nobody is enforcing it,” said Merryn. “That is why we are here to talk to everybody. We need to enforce this.”
PAVE Ambassador and Real World star Sarah Rice also spoke last Friday about the importance of sexual abuse education.
“The journey from victim to survivor is a long journey,” said Rice. “It starts with education and it starts with having a support system in place when something does happen. The only way that can really happen is if the education is there.”