DALLAS, December 31, 2013 — In the absence of hope, we can become surrounded by the darkness, and in those times we need the stars to guide us. We search the skies for a bright point of light that provides the strength for us to hold on just a little while longer. We wish for someone to stop the flicker of our internal “pilot light” as it begins to wane, to cup the flame protecting it from the winds of despair.
Erin Merryn is a survivor of child abuse who has indeed become one of the brightest stars in the lives of so many, giving hope to victims and survivors of child abuse. She has become a champion of those imprisoned by silence and is a hero and a voice for all victims and survivors of child abuse.
Molested by a friend’s uncle during a sleepover and then by a cousin, Erin had locked her pain away, afraid to tell anyone, a prisoner of the pain and shame that shackles every victim and survivor of child abuse.
When her sister confided in her that the cousin who had been molesting Merryn was now targeting her sister, Merryn knew she had to act. Overcoming her fear, Erin approached her parents and, as her body quivered and her cheeks overflowed with tears, she told them about the nightmare she had been living.
Her parents immediately called the police and her cousin was arrested. Erin had not only saved her sister with that courageous act, she had also found a new purpose in her life defending innocent children from sexual predators who sought to take advantage of the vulnerable. The friend’s uncle who had molested Erin refused to cooperate with police and due to a lack of evidence they were unable to prosecute him.
On the average those convicted of sexually abusing a child serve less than a year of jail time and 32% to 46% serve no jail time at all.
There are over 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the world today. According to a Centers for Disease Control study, the lifetime costs for the victims of child sexual abuse reported in one year is $124 billion. That includes the cost of psychiatric counseling, drug treatment, suicides, incarceration for criminal offenses and lost work hours. One in four girls and one in six boys are victims of child sexual abuse.
Childhood sexual abuse has no sense of economic status, ethnicity, gender or celebrity. Survivors include James Dean, Michael Reagan, the adopted son of former President Ronald Reagan and actress Jane Wyman, comedian Mo’Nique, actress Ashley Judd, former President Richard Nixon, Oprah Winfrey, actor Gabriel Byrne, actress Mackenzie Phillips, Massachusetts senator Scott Brown and actor and director Tyler Perry.
Pedophiles walk silently among us, and the shocking revelations brought forth by Jerry Sandusky’s conviction on 52 counts of sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period show us just how vulnerable our children are.
TheNational Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that there are currently 500,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, and typically 100,000 of those are unaccounted for. Research has also shown that each victim of child sexual abuse has to tell an average of seven adults before they are believed, and those who make it to the seventh adult are few in number.
As a young girl Erin suffered alone, unable to speak about the tremendous burden she carried inside. Her only solace was found in the pages of a small diary where she wrote of the lonely and hopeless existence she endured as she kept her silence. The tear- stained pages were filled with an eloquent story of a young girl’s suffering and a refusal to give up on hope.
In 2005 Erin turned her diary into her first book, “Stolen Innocence,” and after its publication, the courage and passion of Erin Merryn and her triumph over child abuse has inspired multitudes of survivors and victims.
With the publication of her first book Erin had achieved national attention and with her newly found celebrity and a drive to protect children, she became an architect for “Erin’s law.” Erin’s law requires states to incorporate education about child abuse into their curriculum from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Through her tireless efforts, Erin Merryn has succeeded in passing Erin’s law in eight states, and fourteen states are introducing the law in 2013-2014. Erin Merryn followed up her first book “Stolen Innocence” with her 2009 book “Living for Today,” where she further chronicled the courage of her struggle to overcome the effects of her abuse as a child.
In 2013 Erin Merryn further plumbed the depths of her battle with the pain of her abuse and bravely revealed hard- kept secrets of her struggle in her third book, “An Unimaginable Act.”
Within its pages she courageously shares her triumph in overcoming not only the trauma of her abuse but in defeating the horrifying obstacles she faced as a child. Early in her life Erin Merryn was diagnosed with a learning disability and would have fallen through the cracks of societies’ educational floor had it not been for the tenacity and love of her mother.
In “An Unimaginable Act,” Erin speaks of how teachers labeled her and further drained the already shallow reservoir of her self-esteem. It was then that her mother became her greatest champion and refused to allow Erin to be trapped in the quagmire of a diagnosis. Erin’s mother advocated for her and worked to help her overcome her difficulties, and today Erin Merryn holds a master’s degree in social work from Aurora University.
But fate was not done challenging Erin Merryn and in “An Unimaginable Act,” she also reveals shocking revelations of a life-threatening condition unveiled after an unexpected turn of events and dangerous coping mechanisms she developed in order to deal with the pain and suffering caused by her abuse.
As we struggle in our own lives we seldom ponder the depth and breadth of what others endure. If we only took a minute to consider what others have accomplished we might awaken the sleeping giant within all of us whose name is hope. Erin Merryn is a hero for our time and she humbly accepts that role as she fights for every child to be safe from predators such as those who stole her innocence as a young girl. If we are looking for an example of all that is good in the world we need look no further than the pages of her latest book.
To find out more about Erin Merryn and Erin’s law go to http://www.erinmerryn.net/erins-law.html.