Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Area woman overcomes nightmares to become inspiration

by Lisa Seiser

December 16, 2010

Erin Merryn is one of those people you know has something important to say.

The 25-year-old part-time Linn Township resident, who has spent many summers and weekends in the Lake Geneva area, wastes little time captivating her audience with her detailed description of childhood sexual abuse.

She tells a story not many people would be willing to share. She was first abused at age 6 by the uncle of her best friend.

Then years later, Erin was abused by her teenage cousin.

It is very uncomfortable to hear, but we all need to listen.

Initially when I heard about Erin, I thought of her as a victim. I read some of her blogs and watched videos of her appearances on the Montel Williams show and "Good Morning America." I still thought of her as a victim.

But, after listening to Erin for 90 minutes explain what happened to her and then another 45 minutes talking with her one-on-one, I realized she is so much more.

As you look into Erin's eyes as she speaks, you know she will never get over what happened. Her life was changed during that fateful overnight stay at her best friend's home and then over and over as the sexual abuse continued for years. She still continues the battle to forgive herself for remaining silent about the abuse for so many years.

But don't feel sorry for her. She really just wants you to understand. She wants those who may be facing the same type of sexual abuse to do what she could not so many years ago — tell someone about what is happening.

She wants those people who work with children on a daily basis to understand the warning signs of sexual abuse — the red flags so many missed when she was young.

She wants people who have been sexually abused to know it is not something to be ashamed of. She wants them to know that's its necessary to forgive the perpetrator and themselves in order to move on with life.

Erin has received notoriety by telling her story, but has gone even further. She is in the middle of having a bill in Illinois approved called Erin's Law.

It's her vision for educating kids about sexual abuse. She also hopes her speeches to children's organizations help law enforcement, teachers and school psychologists see the warning signs and ask the right questions.

Erin said one of her greatest accomplishments is getting people to talk about and recognize sexual abuse as a problem in society.

She said in the past, the only time sexual abuse reached the front page was when there was a story on a perpetrator going to jail. In the past several months, Erin has appeared on the front of several newspapers talking about her law.

"If I can get a parent to talk about this to their kid or for a kid to tell their parents what is going on and stop the abuse that is occurring, I have accomplished what I set out to," Erin said.

She said she will not stop until her law goes nationwide. She may even propose Erin's Law next in Wisconsin.

Some people who face painful circumstances in their childhood never get past it. They never face it. Instead, they use it as a crutch, an explanation and an excuse for their problems as an adult.

Erin has done the exact opposite. She has taken the worst of what happened to her, has faced it and moved forward to become a better person in spite of it.

She uses the knowledge she now has after all this and tries to make a difference in other people's lives helping them learn how to forgive and heal.

In every way, Erin is truly an inspiration.

Every day she proves when you have something important to say, make sure you say it as often as possible.

People will listen. They have to.

Seiser is the editor of the Regional News.