Juneau — Saturday may be the first day of spring, but it also marks just thirty days until the end of the First Session of the 29th Alaska Legislature. While the legislature is sorting out many new issues, the legislation known as Erin’s Law still remains stalled. Erin’s Law was widely supported last session and is proven to prevent child sexual abuse. Erin’s Law would require public school districts statewide to offer child sexual abuse prevention curriculum.
Last year, the legislature came close to passing Erin’s Law. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, but did not pass the House by the end of the session. This year, House Bill 23, sponsored by Representative Tarr (D-Anchorage), has ten other sponsors. Additional bills have been offered in both the House and the Senate. The Governor highlighted Erin’s Law in his State of the State address and it is supported by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. Erin’s Law is named after child sex abuse survivor Erin Merryn who visited the legislature last year.
“It pains me to think that the simple action of passing Erin’s Law could have prevented the suffering of the thousands of youths in Alaska who are sexually abused,” said Rep. Tarr. “With 30 days left in the session there is still time to pass this important legislation. However, that requires a commitment by the Majorities in the House and Senate to make this a priority.”
So far during this school year, the Office of Children Services recorded 1,302 reported cases of child sex abuse in Alaska.
According to the Child Welfare League of America, Alaska consistently has one of the top five rates of child abuse in the United States. For every 1,000 children in Alaska, 42.2 were victims of abuse. That means that every year, approximately 8,000 children in Alaska are physically or sexually abused. This only represents reported cases that result in substantiation or indication of abuse. Numbers of unreported cases may be much higher.
“We are all too familiar with Alaska’s epidemic of child sexual abuse. We know the long term health, social, and fiscal costs associated with this trauma,” said Rep. Tarr. “We have community partners standing by to make Erin’s Law a reality. We know that this approach works. Let’s get it done this session.”
Nineteen other states have already passed Erin’s Law.