A Ridgewood activist is feeling relieved now that Governor Andrew Cuomo has enacted “Erin’s Law” in New York state that requires public schools to teach sexual abuse and exploitation prevention classes for students in kindergarten through eighth grade beginning next year.
Connie Altamirano, a 45-year-old single mother of two who suffers from PTSD and other complications following her own sexual abuse as a child, spent seven years advocating for the legislation that requires instruction each year to know the difference between safe and unsafe touches as well as safe and unsafe secrets.
“What Governor Cuomo signed will save lives and it will save years and decades of trauma by survivors and children in New York state,” Altamirano said.
Erin’s Law is named for Erin Merryn, another abuse survivor and activist against child sexual abuse who has advocated for similar laws nationwide for more than a decade. When Cuomo signed the legislation, he called sexual abuse a national epidemic that has inflicted unimaginable pain on countless children.
“Many children who have been a victim of these horrific crimes or who are still suffering from abuse don’t have the information or emotional tools they need to fight back,” Cuomo said. “By requiring schools to teach kids how to recognize and ultimately thwart this heinous behavior, we are giving our most vulnerable New Yorkers a voice and empowering them to protect themselves.”
Altamirano originally began lobbying in Albany is support of former Assemblywoman Margaret Markey’s Child Victims Act which Cuomo signed into law in February.
“The CVA and Erin’s Law go hand in hand,” she said. “I do wish the governor had signed it by July 1 so we might have gotten the curriculum in place in time for this school year, but I understand the funding wasn’t in the budget for this year.”
Altamirano wishes the state was doing more to advertise what Erin’s Law will do.
“I go house to house and to parks and the beach distributing information that educates everyone from children to senior citizens, and I meet with educators and school administrators in all five boroughs helping to prepare them for the new curriculum” Altamirano said. “More should be provided to inform the public on the details. Yes, the CVA and Erin’s Law passed in the same year, that’s two important bills in eight months, but we are not done. We still have to do more for the survivors and the children of New York state.”