LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- One woman made a powerful testimony at the State Capitol on Thursday over a proposed bill hoping to keep our kids safe from sexual abuse.
House Bill 1988 hopes to "get the wheels moving" on what's known across the country as Erin's Law. The ultimate goal is to bring age-appropriate education on child sex abuse into schools, so kids don't experience what Erin Merryn said she went through multiple times growing up.
"I stayed silent. The only message that I was getting as a child was 'This is our little secret. I'll come get you Erin. I know where you live,'" Erin Merryn said.
Merryn told an Arkansas House Committee Thursday that's how she felt after her first time being sexually abused at six years old. The 28-year-old now wants to change that message through Erin's Law, which is pushing age-appropriate education in school.
"I knew as a child how to duck and cover from a tornado, how to run out of a burning building, how to evacuate a school bus but we fail to teach kids on the prevention of sexual abuse, on empowering them to speak up and tell a safe adult," Merryn said.
House Bill 1988 would jump-start Erin's Law by creating a task force to study child sexual abuse in Arkansas and ways to bring preventative education into schools.
"This is not sex education or abstinence education, we're not advocating for any of that in Kindergarten through 5th grade," State Representative John Baine said. "We want to advocate for kids that they know how to reach out to teachers when they feel like there is something going on or a secret they shouldn't keep."
The bill's sponsor, Representative John Baine from El Dorado, wasn't expecting to get the bill passed in committee Thursday, but he and Erin ended up getting the first round of approval.
"Congratulations, Mr. Baine. Your bill passes," said Committee Chair Representative David Meeks.
This bill seemed to hit the hearts of lawmakers. THV 11 cameras caught some of them giving Merryn hugs and handshakes afterwards.
Some other states have already passed a bill like this, including Indiana, Michigan and even Illinois, where Merryn is from.
The proposed Arkansas bill heads to the House floor Monday. If the bill eventually becomes law here, the task force studying the preventative education would have to submit a report by the end of next year. The implementation phase would come after that.