Child Abuse Education Can Save Kids

By Chittenden-Laird, Emily | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), April 27, 2018 | Go to article overview

Child Abuse Education Can Save Kids


Chittenden-Laird, Emily, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


It is everyone's role to promote child safety and prevent child abuse

Imagine being six-years-old and in the first grade. You've been abused by a relative since you can remember. As part of your school's safety and prevention curriculum, you hear a teacher talk about body safety and inappropriate touches. You summon the courage to tell someone what's happening to you at home.

Statistics show that about one in 10 children in West Virginia will experience sexual abuse before age 18. Just like children are taught fire safety and lockdown drills, now every child in grades K-12 will receive child sexual abuse prevention education each year.

Formed from Erin Merryn's Law that passed in 2015, the West Virginia Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children recommended strengthening the school system's capacity to provide age-appropriate, comprehensive, evidence-informed child sexual abuse prevention education. And the West Virginia Legislature recently passed legislation to ensure that will happen.

Erin Merryn is a child sexual abuse survivor who has spearheaded efforts to pass similar laws across the country. She has often said her disruptive behavior at school was a cry for help when she didn't have words to convey her pain. "I was not educated on how to tell today or how to get away. I was never educated on my body belongs to me.

The Task Force is working with lawmakers, survivors, educators, law enforcement, higher education, and advocates. Their recommendations include:

All public school employees receive training to recognize and respond to suspected abuse and neglect.

Simplify and clarify mandatory reporting laws to make them easier to understand and to implement.

Strengthen non-criminal sanctions and screenings for licensure of child-serving professionals.

Identify strategies for child abuse prevention approaches and education. …

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