Gov. malloy signs erin’s law on sexual abuse curriculum; connecticut joins growing national effort the connecticut story connecticutmag.com signs of a concussion in a child

“As a parent and someone whose wife spent years as an advocate for survivors and victims of sexual and domestic violence, this is an issue that is very dear to Governor Malloy, said the governor’s press secretary, Samaia M. Hernandez. The Governor was happy to join other states in supporting this bill, which aims to raise the awareness of sexual assault and abuse with an education prevention program for teachers with age-appropriate material for students.”

After the legislation had been passed by the General Assembly, Hernandez had said , The governor supports the goals and objectives of Erin’s Law and looks forward to reviewing the bill in the coming days. The driving force behind law, Erin Merryn, who came to Connecticut in March to lobby for the bill, is on a crusade to have it adopted in every state.


She noted Connecticut’s legislative approval in both a Facebook post and a Tweet, as she had earlier expressed appreciation on social media for the Connecticut Senate’s approval.

“We teach kids tornado drills, bus drills, fire drills. We teach kids the eight ways to say no to drugs. We’ve been doing that for decades and now we have bully prevention in schools. So why are we not educating kids if you’re being sexually abused to speak up and tell and not keep a secret? We tell them about stranger danger… [but most children] are being hurt by someone they know and trust.

Erin Merryn was sexually abused for the first time just weeks before her seventh birthday. She was repeatedly raped by an adult neighbor until she was eight and a half, and saved from that sexual assault only by her family moving to another Illinois town.

What would become Erin’s Law for Connecticut is now Senate Bill 203, which had its public hearing Feb. 27 and was unanimously approved by the Children’s Committee March 4, according to a press aide in the office of Senate Democrats. The next step is a vote in the full Senate, which is not yet scheduled.

Her goal is that one day – sooner rather than later – Erin’s Law will be in effect across the country. (The map below from the Erin’s Law Facebook page shows progress across the country.)For her work in this field, Merryn was named one of Glamour Magazine’s 2012 Women of the Year. She has also written two other books, Living For Today and An Unimaginable Act.

Now Merryn will be honored – in part for her story but also for what she has done for other victims in creating Erin’s Law – in Connecticut, at 5th Annual Dr. Henry C. Lee Award Recognition Dinner March 21, being held by the group Jane Doe No More.

The ordeal that followed her 1993 attack is well known in the state. After being raped by a masked assailant in her home, she spent more than a decade as “Jane Doe,” trying to get the crime solved. She went toe-to-toe with the Waterbury Police Department, which initially believed she had invented the attack. The crime was eventually solved through DNA evidence and with the help of one detective who never gave up. ( Palomba’s story was featured in the October 2012 issue of Connecticut Magazine.)Like Merryn, Palomba wrote a book chronicling her story, Jane Doe No More: My 15-Year Fight to Reclaim My Identity—A True Story of Survival, Hope, and Redemption, and founded her Naugatuck-based sexual abuse advocacy organization, Jane Doe No More, in 2007.

The mission is to improve the way “society responds to survivors of sexual assault through education, awareness, advocacy and support.” Jane Doe No More is multi-faceted by design, offering self-defense courses, survival techniques, support groups and education as a way of providing victims with the tools they need to reclaim their lives. The most important step in that process is reclaiming their identities.

Five years ago, Palomba launched the Dr. Henry C. Lee Award Recognition Dinner to honor those who are making a difference in this field. Dr. Lee, founder of the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Sciences and a supporter of Palomba’s during her struggle, was the first recipient of the award.

This year, Merryn and Panagrossi will receive the award, and Palomba is sure this year’s dinner will be “really special.” Presented by the Petit Family Foundation, the dinner will be held at The Waterview in Monroe on March 21, beginning at 6 p.m.

A Jane Doe No More scholarship will be awarded, and there will be silent and live auctions. Tickets cost $125 per person and include open bar, a cocktail reception, dinner and dessert. Tables of 10 may be reserved, and event sponsors are being sought.

While in Connecticut, Merryn will also speak at a press conference at the Capitol to “drum up support” for Erin’s Law being adopted in the state. Merryn has an online fundraising campaign to help offset her expenses as she goes around the country lobbying for passage of her law.

“We teach kids tornado drills, bus drills, fire drills. We teach kids the eight ways to say no to drugs. We’ve been doing that for decades and now we have bully prevention in schools. So why are we not educating kids if you’re being sexually abused to speak up and tell and not keep a secret? We tell them about stranger danger… [but most children] are being hurt by someone they know and trust,” says Merryn.Jane Doe No More will also honor Panagrossi (right) for the work her organization, Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury, does for sexual assault and domestic abuse victims. “Peggy has been a fixture with domestic assault as the executive director for over 26 years,” says Palomba.

Safe Haven was founded in 1978 to provide support for the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Panagrossi has expanded the organization’s services since coming on board as the executive director over two decades ago. It provides a variety of support groups, counseling and advocacy in addition to their 24-hour hotline and shelter for battered women and children.