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Southwest Ohio lawmakers push bill to teach students how to prevent sex abuse

Published By Dayton Daily News on October 11, 2021
Sara P. Carruthers In The News

Led by Franklin and Cincinnati legislators, Ohio lawmakers are again making a bipartisan push for a bill that would teach students age-appropriate lessons aimed at stopping abuse. The renewed effort is fueled in part by the conviction of a Springboro teacher for sexually assaulting dozens of students.

The state has 1.8 million school-age children, said Rosa Beltre, executive director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence. Of those, one in four girls and one in six boys will be victims of sexual abuse; but only a third will report it, she told a Senate committee during an Oct. 5 hearing for House Bill 105.

 “Sexual assault continues to be the most underreported crime in the U.S. and in Ohio,” Beltre said.

Sally Dyer told her story Oct. 5 to members of the Ohio Senate Primary & Secondary Education Committee, urging them to pass House Bill 105.

Versions of the bill have failed in five previous legislative sessions. Dyer, a Dayton resident and childhood sexual abuse survivor herself, said she has testified in favor those bills repeatedly since 2016.

For eight years Dyer served as guardian ad litem for a boy named Tony, who had been molested by relatives and then groomed by a pedophile, she told the committee. After aging out of the foster care system, he served stints in jail related to his drug addiction, which Dyer attributed to the trauma of his repeated abuse.

At age 34, Tony walked away from a treatment program a few days after Dyer’s last visit.

 “Soon after that, the Dayton police found him dead behind a car wash with a needle in his arm,” she said.

House Bill 105 is the latest Ohio iteration of “Erin’s Law,” named for author and activist Erin Merryn. Merryn, now a spokesperson for the National Children’s Alliance, was sexually abused for six years as a child; as an adult, she advocates for schools to teach children personal body safety in order to prevent sexual abuse.

Passed in Merryn’s home state of Illinois in 2010, Erin’s Law has been adopted in some form by 37 states.

The latest attempt here is sponsored by state Reps. Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, and Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati. The bill is cosponsored by state Reps. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton; Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield; Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield; Andrea White, R-Kettering; and Tom Young R-Washington Twp.

Backers introduced HB 105 in February. It passed the House 86-8 in June.

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