In The Spotlight:
Alaska becomes 26th state to pass Erin's Law

Alaska becomes 26th state to pass Erin's Law

After a tough fight and the state's Governor and First Lady called for it's passage, Alaska became the 26th state to pass a version of Erin's Law in June, 2015. A bill for the law has also been proposed in 17 more states. Only 7 states have not introduced it.
People Magazine: Erin 1 of 15 Women Changing World
People Magazine named Erin Merryn as one of its "15 Amazing Women Changing the World" in its June, 2014, issue for her nationwide visionary work protecting children from sexual abuse. Others included Oprah, Angelina Jolie and Angela Merkel.  
Erin Merryn named a Woman of the Year by Glamour Magazine
Erin Merryn was presented with a Glamour Magazine "2012 Woman of the Year" award for her work protecting children from sexual abuse at Carnegie Hall Nov. 12, 2012, by actress Julianna Margulies, star of CBS-TV's "The Good Wife."
The Erin's Law Blog:

“An Unimaginable Act is a wake-up call to society on a silent epidemic one brave confident woman refuses to stay silent about. Through the trauma and obstacles she has faced in her life, Erin takes readers on a remarkable journey  of resilience, faith, courage, and forgiveness. She shares how she turned tragedy into triumph, which has led her on an unstoppable crusade to give children the voice she never had as a child through a very important law that will protect children for generations to come.” -Julianna Margulies, Actress




GADSDEN, Ala. (WHNT-TV News) – The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office says a school presentation about sexual abuse resulted in a man being put in jail on child sex abuse and pornography charges.

Thomas Aaron Craig, 30, is charged in connection with sexual abuse and pornography with minors, according to Sheriff Todd Entrekin. Craig, of Gadsden, was arrested on Thursday, May 21.  He is charged with one count of sexual abuse of a child less than 12 years old, one count of possession of child pornography and one count of production of pornography with minors.  All are felonies.

Investigators say Craig allegedly sexually abused a 9-year-old girl over a two-year period.  The girl saw a presentation at school about what to do if you were being physically or sexually abused, and came forward to tell her teacher this type of thing was happening to her. The teacher notified the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office and Etowah County DHR.

Investigators say Craig gave consent for them to search his cell phone, and they found more than 35 pornographic photos.  Craig is being held in the Etowah County Detention Center on $150,000 bond.

The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office thanks the James M. Barrie Center for helping in the investigation.



(People Magazine) Following the cancellation of TLC’s hit series 19 Kids and Counting the network has partnered with two of the nation’s leading sexual abuse prevention organizations to create a new documentary addressing the issue.

Breaking the Silence teams up TLC with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and Darkness to Light (D2L) a nonprofit organization that works to empower people to prevent child sexual abuse and will share the stories of survivors of sexual abuse.

In an exclusive First Look clip from the one-hour special Erin Merryn opens up about being a two-time survivor and discusses her passionate fight to end abuse with Erin’s Law legislation, which requires sexual abuse prevention education in public schools and has already been passed in 26 states.

“Like so many survivors, I ended up keeping it a secret for years,” she says. “Now, as a mother with my own child, I want to make sure my children know how to speak up.”

Viewers will also hear from experts during a sexual abuse prevention training given by Darkness to Light, one of the nation’s leading organizations for abuse prevention, where Jill and Jessa Duggar attend following their own family’s experience as they hope to help others and promote adult education for the protection of children .

Breaking the Silence airs Aug. 30th at 10 p.m. ET on TLC.

Aaron Jansen illustration

Aaron Jansen illustration

Carey Restino The Arctic Sounder
July 18, 2015

I had a conversation with my 7-year-old daughter the other night on one of those long drives that Alaska life is filled with. I decided it was time to talk about what is OK and what isn’t when it comes to other people and your body. It’s not a topic that any parent wants to bring up, really. We’d like to think that our little boys and girls will live in a bubble, and will never face any type of aggressive behavior, let alone someone trying to abuse them. But that’s not what the statistics show. So, I took a deep breath.

“So, do you know there are places other people shouldn’t touch you?”


“OK, good, so what do you do if someone tries to do that?”

“Run away!”

“That’s good. What if you can’t run away?”


“Is it OK to shout at them?”


“YES! You can shout at them as loud as you want! Tell them to stop as loud as you want!”


“And is it OK to hit them?”

“Oh, nooooo. It’s never OK to hit.”

“YES you can! If they don’t stop, you can hit them anywhere you want, especially places you know will hurt! And then run away as soon as you can!”

She grinned.


“Yes! But is it OK to hit a friend at school who gives you a hug because you are sad?”


“That’s right.”

It’s the beginning of a much bigger conversation, one that we’ll have every year for a long time. But the simple fact that her body is hers and she has the right to protect it was not intuitive. And if she faced that situation, even armed with the knowledge she now has, she might not be able to fight back for many reasons. But hopefully, just feeling empowered will help make her less vulnerable.

That’s why the passage this week of the Alaska Safe Children’s Act is so important. The act is the beginning of a conversation between teachers and students about sexual assault, teen dating, teen dating violence and youth suicide, all topics that can be uncomfortable to talk about and completely off the table in many families.

But across the state of Alaska, starting in middle school, students will learn these important subjects on an age-appropriate level. Like the simple conversation with my daughter, educating children about what is OK and what isn’t helps them stand up for themselves. And while we may think the knowledge that there are people who might want to hurt them will scare them, knowledge is power. If delivered properly, these messages may save some of these children from a lifetime trying to recover.

Some legislators balked at the cost of these programs. Thank goodness that argument didn’t hold water in the eyes of the majority. Children who have been harmed in those ways more often than not need help for a long time afterward, help that often costs quite a bit. If they don’t get that help, the result is frequently worse, even, both for them, and for the greater public good. In Alaska, where statistics for sexual assault, domestic violence and child assault are alarming, we should be paying closer attention than anywhere else. We also have extremely high rates of suicide, especially among our young people. Coincidence? I think not.

It is time we started talking about these issues. Perhaps not everyone thinks it is appropriate to have a conversation with your young daughter about ways she can protect herself from predators. But we must begin conversations about these things all across the state. We must stop turning away from the uncomfortable nature of sexual assault and abuse, and must stop accepting domestic violence. Erin’s Law and the Alaska Safe Children’s Act is a first step in that direction. Let’s hope it is the beginning of a path of healing for all of us.

Carey Restino is the editor of Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman and The Arctic Sounder, where this commentary first appeared.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)