Child Sexual Abuse: America's Silent Epidemic

By: Jorge Rodas Email
By: Jorge Rodas Email

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Teaching our kids about sexual abuse isn't easy, but it's a lesson they're now learning in school thanks to a law named after an Illinois woman who was abused as a kid. Today Erin Merryn was in Rockford teaching how to recognize and report abuse.

It's hard to question Erin Merryn's bravery. She did what only a fraction of the children in this country do when they are sexually abused- report it.

"I don't want another child to live through the childhood I endured," said Merryn. "I don't want another kid to see the evil that I saw; to live through heinous acts that I experienced."

Merryn was abused by her cousin as a small child. Today the Illinois native is nationally known for her work passing Erin's Law. It's a bill that forces schools to teach child abuse prevention and recognition.

Experts say we need to look for signs like kids showing sexual behaviors and difficulty walking or sitting.

"Often times when you start looking into a child abuse incident you may have one or two victims," said Rockford Police Lt. Marc Welsh. "But, by the time you're looking into it, you may have multiple five [or] ten victims and then that magnifies the investigation to be ongoing and even longer than you originally thought."

Rockford Police say last year there were 22 cases of child sexual abuse. This year is looking better with only 8 reports, but some experts say the numbers aren't accurate.

"There's a lot of children out there that are either not disclosing that they've been abused," said Kathy Pomahac of the Carrie Lynn Children's Center, "or it's not being reported that they've been abused."

Some doctors say the reason more kids don't tell people they're being abused is because they don't understand that's what's happening to them. Doctors say it can be difficult to notice signs of abuse but if we suspect a child is a victim report it without hesitation.

Erin's law has been passed in 8 states. Legislation is pending in 11 other states.

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