Today’s blog is co-authored by Emily Miller, LMSW – Victim and Family Advocate for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Spartanburg, Cherokee, & Union and Polly Edwards-Padgett, Project Director for Connect Spartanburg.
In 2014, Erin’s Law was passed in South Carolina, requiring school districts to provide age-appropriate education regarding sexual abuse in grades PreK-12th. Representatives from the Children’s Advocacy Center, Hope Center for Children, Safe Homes/Rape Crisis, school districts, Forrester Center, Center for Child Advocacy Studies at USC Upstate, and Connect came together to develop curriculum recommendations to support school districts to effectively address Erin’s Law.
Erin’s Law is a positive step towards addressing many of the barriers children face in disclosing abuse. According to the sexual abuse prevention organization, Darkness to Light, only about 38% of child victims of sexual abuse disclose their abuse, and most who disclose do not do so immediately. Often due to manipulation by the offender, who is usually someone the child knows, children face fear, confusion, guilt, shame, and other tremendous barriers to disclosing the abuse. Erin’s Law addresses some of these barriers by teaching children safety rules that apply to everyone in a child’s life, not just strangers.
The passage of Erin’s Law provided the school districts an opportunity, with the support of local community organizations, to develop a comprehensive curriculum that includes training for all adults in the school setting, age-appropriate lessons for each grade, and a wealth of resources for families to continue these conversations at home. Fortunately, funding from Connect provided our schools with access to free resources and trainings to effectively address Erin’s Law in Spartanburg County.
As Erin’s Law is implemented, more children may disclose prior or current abuse to trusted adults, leading to a potential increase in reporting and referrals. Over time, these and other efforts in our community will reduce the barriers children face in disclosing abuse, help adults recognize children who are currently being abused or have been abused in the past, and eventually contribute to a decline in the rates of the sexual victimization of our children.