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Gov. Cuomo signs Erin’s Law after sexual abuse survivors slammed him for dragging feet

2019-08-29

Sex abuse survivor, and anti-abuse advocate Erin Merryn, addresses those gathered during a press conference at the Legislative Office Building on Monday, April 30, 2012 in Albany, NY. (Paul Buckowski/Albany Times Union)

ALBANY ? Schoolkids in New York will soon receive special instruction on how to recognize and prevent sexual abuse.

Gov. Cuomo on Thursday signed Erin’s Law, a measure requiring educators to dedicate times each school year to teach children in kindergarten through eighth grade about child sexual abuse and personal body safety.

“Sexual abuse is a nationwide epidemic that has inflicted unimaginable pain on countless children, and we must use every lever at our disposal to stop it,” Cuomo said. "Many children who have been a victim of these horrific crimes or who are still suffering from abuse don’t have the information or emotional tools they need to fight back.

The governor took heat last week as advocates slammed him for not signing the bill in time for the approaching school year.

Erin Merryn, the bill’s namesake and a survivor of sexual abuse, said she was frustrated by the governor’s slow response and had hoped for a public bill signing.

“I keep asking if they can give us a date and I’m get nothing, no answers,” she told the Daily News last week. “How difficult is it to set aside an hour? It’s not going to take all day, you take a pen and paper and you sign it.”

Under the law, first introduced in New York in 2012, kids will receive age-appropriate lessons on how to speak up about anything that makes them uncomfortable and tell the differences between “good and bad” touches.

Parents and school staff would also be educated on recognizing signs of abuse. Similar legislation is already on the books in 36 other states.

Bill sponsor and sexual abuse survivor Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx) called the measure a companion piece to the Child Victims Act, which changed the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases and created the one-year civil suit lookback that began last week.

“For years lawmakers and advocates fought for our children’s access to critical preventative resources to stop childhood sexual abuse, and today that battle is finally won,” she said. “As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it has been an honor to carry this bill and fight like hell to give future generations the tools I didn’t have to protect themselves against harm and lasting trauma.”