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Norwich — Parents routinely caution young children to be wary of strangers, not to open doors or get into cars — called “stranger danger” — but it’s more difficult to talk about and teach about the possibility of danger within a family or trusted neighborhood.
But children’s sexual assault victims’ advocates said Wednesday that fully 90 percent of child sexual assault is perpetrated by family members or trusted friends or neighbors.
Flanked by local state legislators and sexual assault victims’ advocates, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman visited Norwich City Hall Wednesday to mark the passage of the state’s new “Erin’s Law” that will mandate age-appropriate sexual assault prevention education in grades kindergarten through 12 starting in October 2015.
The law, named after national sexual assault victims’ advocate and victim Erin Merryn of Illinois, calls for the state Department of Education, the Department of Children and Families and the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services Inc. to craft curriculum to be presented to local boards of education throughout the state for approval. Schools would have to incorporate the new curriculum by October 2015, allowing parents who object to the topic to ask that their children be excused.
State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, who was the lead proponent of the law, said Wednesday the curriculum will be aimed at teaching children about “safe secrets and unsafe secrets,” and how to recognize and report sexual abuse.
Osten said parents and schools have long taught about “stranger danger” and how to be wary in public places. It’s much more difficult to teach them to report on a relative or friend.
Jillian Gilchrest, director of public policy and communication for Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services — a coalition of nine different service organizations — said when she worked as a child advocate, the overwhelming majority of sexual assault victims were assaulted by a trusted person, “someone they loved and considered family.”
Georgette Katin, executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, which serves New London, Windham and part of Tolland counties, said 45 percent of the agency’s clients last year were children, about 300 total.
Osten said she started working on the law late in the spring 2013 legislative session after she met Merryn at a Glamour Magazine event, but it was too late to get it passed that year. It passed unanimously on the consent agenda this spring.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the bill June 11.
During Wednesday’s event in the Council Chambers at Norwich City Hall, Wyman presented Osten with a copy of the bill with Malloy’s original signature in recognition of her work to write and pass the legislation. Connecticut became the 14th state to pass a version of Erin’s Law, Wyman said.
Requires schools to provide sexual assault prevention education by Oct. 1, 2015. Curriculum will teach children how to recognize and report sexual abuse, often committed by family or trusted people.
Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services Inc. statewide 24-hour confidential hotline: (888) 999-5545 in English, (888) 568-8332 in Spanish.