Erin's Law would help families recognize, stop child sexual abuse

Do you or the children in your family know how to recognize sexual abuse? The tough question is one April Kane, a concerned south Minneapolis citizen, believes few can answer.

Kane wants to make sure everyone is equipped with the knowledge to confidently answer the tough questions around child sexual abuse.

“It’s been an uphill battle,” Kane said of working to get Erin’s Law heard in Minnesota.

Erin’s Law, which has already passed in 28 states, would require all public schools to implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program that would teach students pre-K through 12th grade how to recognize the silent epidemic – and if victimized – to tell a trusted adult.

“Pedophiles want to live in a state where the children aren’t protected,” Kane said.

After three years of calling local lawmakers to hear more about the law, she sensed plenty of kickback.

“It’s a topic that makes people feel awkward, and they don’t want to talk about it,” Kane said.

Erin’s Law would mandate age-appropriate curriculum.

“So you don’t teach someone the same thing at 16 that you would at six," Kane said. 

Erin’s Law would also teach school staff and families warning signs of sexual abuse and connect them with necessary resources to support sexually abused children.

“A career pedophile in their lifetime can abuse 50 to 100 to 200 children over and over again when they don’t speak out. And the reason they don’t speak out is nine out of ten times it's a trusted adult,” Kane said of the silent epidemic.

A key player in making sure Erin’s Law is heard in Minnesota is Rep. Jennifer Loon – the chair of education finance in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

“I’m happy to meet with advocates,” Loon said. She said a formal meeting to learn more about Erin’s Law has yet to be scheduled, adding, “that happens with lots of pieces of legislation.”

Kane believes the legislation will stop people like Danny Heinrich, who confessed to sexually assaulting and killing Jacob Wetterling, in their tracks.  Kane hopes the law will help victims of sexual abuse, who never address the trauma and instead continue the cycle of abuse by hurting others.

“If we could’ve saved him, could we have saved Jacob? And the answer is 'quite possibly',” Kane said.

Erin’s Law is expected to pass in Wisconsin early next year.

Minnesota is one of only a few states that have yet to even have a hearing for Erin’s Law.

The state’s legislative session begins on Jan. 3.