After delay, Erin’s Law proposal to help child sex abuse victims draws bipartisan support

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DENVER -- One of many survivors of child sexual abuse to testify in support of Senate Bill 20 a couple of weeks ago, Meaghan Scull has been on pins and needles ever since she left the Capitol that day after a long hearing with the bill's fate still up in the air.

The Senate Education Committee, after hearing powerful testimony from a number of victims and advocates, had laid the bill, dubbed "Erin's Law", over for action at a later date.

"I have been stressed out," Scull said Wednesday. "To think about it not being passed was extremely stressful."

Erin's Law, which has been passed with bipartisan support in 19 other states, aims to assist schools with education and response to child sexual abuse.

After a couple weeks of speculation that Republicans, who control the committee, were considering an amendment that would have rolled back the comprehensive sex education program Democrats enacted last year -- effectively daring Democrats to vote against their own bill aimed at helping victims of child sexual abuse in order to preserve sex ed -- the committee took up the bill again on Wednesday.

After one amendment, drafted by Sen. Laura Woods, R-Arvada, along with the bill sponsor, Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, the committee quickly voted S.B. 20 on to the Senate Judiciary Committee on a unanimous vote.

"I thought we were going to have my bill hijacked," said Newell, who fought back tears as she expressed her relief after the vote. "It's a great day for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse."

Newell also thanked Republicans for allowing the bill to move forward without any "poison pill" amendments.

"They really did honor survivors today by keeping the issue separate," she said.

Woods, whose amendment ensures that the bill directs counselors and school officials to use the state's Safe 2 Tell hotline in reporting abuse, said that the GOP committee members have supported the bill the whole time.

"I think we all supported this bill even at the first hearing that we had," Woods said. "I think the reason is we all believe it's important to protect victims of sexual assault."

The committee's vote on the bill was delayed, according to Woods, in order to strengthen the bill, not derail it; asked whether any amendments to repeal comprehensive sex education were considered, Woods said only that she only worked on her amendment and wasn't aware of what other proposals were discussed.

The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee, with the biggest hurdle having been already cleared.

"It will create a mechanism for children not only to report but also for more education on what this really looks like," said Scull, herself fighting back tears upon hearing of the bill's passage Wednesday.

"It's huge."

 

 

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