Sexual Abuse — standard teaching for K-5th Grade in San Jose?
Thursday, 17 May 2012
By Sharon McElhone
Karen Fukua, Public Relations and Community Development manager at San Jose Unified School District, said a few schools in San Jose funded a child self-protection program through an outside agency thirty years ago.
The program talked to children about good touches and bad touches, but because of lack of funding, the program disappeared. Since that time millions of children have been victims of sexual abuse in the U.S. and while there are agencies like the National Children’s Alliance, a membership organization that provides coordinated services to victims of child abuse, there is yet to be a standard vehicle that educates children about sexual abuse.
Erin Merryn, a survivor of sexual abuse herself, embarked on a mission in 2005 to change all that. “We teach kids tornado drills, fire drills, bus drills. We teach them nothing about sexual abuse,” she says in an interview on Oprah. She means to put a face and voice to the millions of victims of sexual abuse to raise the level awareness that education is the key to helping children protect themselves.
Since her work began, “Erin’s Law”, teaching children K-5th about sexual abuse, is now a law in New York, Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana. A draft of the bill is on the governor’s desk in Maine. Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Mississippi, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Nevada all have drafts that are currently being proposed. The rest of the states including California do not have pins in them on the ZeeMaps. It is Erin’s goal for all fifty states to sign into legislation a law that will fight a nationwide silent epidemic.
According to ChildHelp founded in 1959 by Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States every year, the worst record of the industrialized nations. California, in 2011, reported 6,764 children being assisted by the National Children’s Alliance for sexual abuse alone. Unreported cases cannot be tracked.
It’s among a parent’s greatest concern, yet because sexual abuse is still a topic considered taboo, children often do not get the tools they need to protect themselves and perpetrators prey on innocence.
“Our Catholic Church asked us to sign a waiver at my son’s communion this year. They taught him about appropriate touches and inappropriate touches; and they talked to him in Boy Scouts, but eight years old may be too old. Maybe first grade is ideal. It has to be age appropriate,” says Angelica Apel, a mother of two who lives in San Jose. The education would also help for when her family travels to Mexico. “I am from Mexico and a lot of things are happening now there in the last two years. It’s dangerous…I want him to learn how to react,” she ended.
Many agree that education is the key and even former second and third grade teacher, Shannon Saunders, believes it is hugely important and that it’s part of a teacher’s job to teach about sexual abuse. Still, she says, there is a lot of material that teachers have to cover with the new California standards in a short amount of time so it would be challenging to fit it in, but she says, “there is no way around it.”
It is unknown if California is introducing a draft of “Erin’s Law” as of now. Both California Senate legislators that were called were unavailable for comment, but Erin Merryn promises to continue her mission to have all American children K-5th educated on sexual abuse and vows nothing will stop her.
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