Every New Jersey school district will be required to incorporate age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention instruction from preschool to 12th grades under legislation signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy on Friday.
The new law (A-769), sponsored by Assembly Democrats Ralph Caputo, Thomas Giblin and Valerie Vainieri Huttle, is known as “Erin’s Law” in honor of Erin Merryn, a survivor of child sexual abuse who has become an advocate for sexual abuse awareness education.
“It has become painfully clear how rampant this is, and how important it is to educate young people about sexual abuse so they can protect themselves,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “By having these conversations, we are reaffirming that abuse is not okay and no one should have to suffer in silence.”
Under the law, the Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Department of Children and Families, New Jersey Children’s Alliance and other relevant entities, will develop age-appropriate sample learning activities and resources and provide the material to school districts. The education will be a part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.
“Predators often use the innocence and vulnerability of young people against them,” said Giblin (D-Essex,Passaic). “Educating children from an early age about what entails sexual abuse can help empower children to speak up and prevent other children from being victimized.”
“The trauma caused by sexual abuse is often deep and long-lasting. By educating school-age children about what constitutes sexual abuse and how they can protect themselves, we can save these children from the painful aftermath,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
This measure was previously approved by the Assembly in May by a vote of 76-0, and by the Senate in March, 39-0.