ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – One bill in this year’s legislative session has support from both sides of the aisle — and the governor.
It would mandate age-appropriate sex abuse and assault education in schools.
Right now, there are no state statutes requiring school districts like APS to teach kids how to avoid sex abuse and how to report it.
A young woman is trying to change that with a campaign across the country for Erin’s Law.
“Growing up in Illinois, I was always taught in school – tornado drills, bus drills, fire drills, stranger danger – but the one message I wasn’t being taught was how to speak up and tell if I was being sexually abused,” said abuse survivor and activist Erin Merryn.
Merryn was sexually abused starting in the first grade – and she says the only message she got about it was to stay quiet.
Three years ago, she started a campaign across the country for Erin’s Law – mandating age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault education in schools.
Nineteen states, including New Mexico, are introducing the legislation this year. Eight states have already passed it.
It hasn’t always been without pushback.
“They get confused thinking, ‘This is teaching our first graders sex-ed,’” she said. “Completely different subject. This has nothing to do with safe sex. This is completely about personal body safety and empowering kids: If you’re being abused, not to stay quiet.”
According to the CDC, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by age 18.
The bill, co-sponsored by House Republican David Gallegos and Senate Democrat Bill O’Neill, would also train teachers how to spot and report suspected sexual abuse.
“This is to prevent and give these kids a lifeline,” said Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque. “To know, because it’s been taught to them, that this is not OK and that it’s OK to confide in a teacher or licensed school professional.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Susana Martinez said she’s enthusiastic about this bill and that this legislation is one of her priorities.
The legislators co-sponsoring the bill say the mandate would have minimal cost, if any.
Several non-profits offer research-based curriculum at low or no cost.
APS currently has no packaged curriculum teaching kids about avoiding and reporting sexual abuse.