Let’s put kids before politics

For the second year in a row, it seems as if Erin’s Law, a bill implementing a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program, is doomed to die in a tied-up legislature — again. Even despite support from our last two governors, senators like Kevin Meyer, Mike Dunleavy and Anna MacKinnon have led an effort to barricade the original text of the law from reaching Gov. Walker’s desk for its promised signature.

Specifically, our opponents of the bill’s original passage have decided that politics ought to take a more precedented role than the protection of survivors of child sexual assault. Erin’s Law is straightforward and implements an evidence-based curriculum to bring a voice to children who have been sexually assaulted; it has been passed in nearly half of U.S. states, and has received praise from schools and social workers all across the country. Rather than embrace its success, our senators have ignored the epidemic Erin’s Law addresses and instead created a political battle over it. 

That being said, I’d like to provide five simple facts about sexual assault among children to remind our senators how real the issue truly is. 

1. Every year, approximately 8,000 children in Alaska are physically or sexually abused. (Child Welfare League of America)

2. Adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18. (CDC 2006)

3.  Alaska’s child sexual assault rate is six times the national average. (FBI Uniform Crime Report)

4. Only 1 in 10 sexually abused children tell someone. (Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children 2012)

5. Every 6 minutes a child is sexually assaulted in the United States. (Erin Merryn) 

Contrary to our Legislature’s belief, Erin’s Law is not political. Erin’s Law is a bill that addresses a vastly underreported concern in this country. Erin’s Law gives children a voice that should not be undermined by the petty politics of our budget brawl. Passing this is a step forward in mitigating a severe crisis in Alaska, and rising above the fog of ugly congressional gridlock. 

Above all, I’d also like to personally call on the mentioned senators as well as others in the Legislature who believe playing politics is more important than protecting Alaska’s children. Sens. Meyer, Dunleavy and MacKinnon: please put Erin’s Law above the politics of this session’s legislative battle for the good of our state and our children’s futures. Help the Legislature put Alaska on the growing list of states protecting children from sexual assault. 

Robert Hockema