Activist leads charge for child sexual abuse law

Mar. 08, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

A native Carthaginian is heading the effort to enact a North Carolina law requiring children to be educated about the threat of sexual abuse.

After sexual abuse impacted Sonya McTillman’s family, she began looking for ways to prevent children from being abused and to educate children about the threat of sexual assault. To prevent families from facing a similar tragedy, McTillman said she wants to enact Erin’s Law in North Carolina.

“Erin’s Law requires public school systems to hold an annual sexual abuse prevention curriculum for students and staff,” she said.

Erin’s Law is named after Erin Merryn, an Illinois woman who was sexually abused as a child and has since made it her crusade to educate children about sexual abuse. It has been passed in 10 states, and the bill has been introduced or scheduled to be introduced in 27 other states, including North Carolina.

N.C. Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, announced in February her intention to introduce the bill when the General Assembly reconvenes in May. In the coming months, McTillman said she intends to travel to Central Carolina to give presentations about the law, and she encouraged Lee County residents to contact their local representatives to express their support.

“We anticipate bipartisan support for this bill,” she said. “We don't think we'll have any trouble passing this bill because it is in the best interest of the children.”

The curriculum would be rooted in the Greensboro-based Bee Wise Kids program, which has been used in faith-based settings for the last six years, McTillman said. The program could be tweaked for secular use and should cost little to implement, she said.

The law is desperately needed in North Carolina, McTillman said, because one in 10 children is sexually abused before the age of 18 and it costs North Carolina more than $845 million per year in long-term expenses and losses attributed to child sexual abuse. 

More information about Erin’s Law in North Carolina can be found at www.beewisekids.org.