Sixteen Police Agencies Across Seven Counties Launch
Major Child Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention Campaign
For the past 3 years, the Dixon Police Department has played a major role in raising awareness and creating prevention messages on child sexual abuse. The initiative started when the Shining Star Children's Center, located in Dixon, was selected to host the Champions for Children Walk in May of 2009. Since then, Dixon officers have conducted community presentations to more than 5,000 people and more than 1,150 citizens have participated in the annual walk. The police department has also provided in-service training to school administrators, teachers, and counselors.
Chief Langloss stated, "After our very first community presentation, it was obvious people were ready to hear this message and take action. Several business and school leaders approach me and ask us to give our presentation to their employees. Our community is responsible for a major push across the state to give a face and a voice to these child victims."
In February of 2010, Chief Langloss met a young woman named Erin Merryn at a local training conference hosted by Shining Star. Merryn spoke about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her best friend's uncle and her cousin. She said growing up in public schools, she was taught the 8 ways to say "no" to drugs through D.A.R.E. and what to do for a fire or a tornado, but no one ever spoke about safe secrets and unsafe secrets or safe touches and unsafe touches. No one told her what to do when someone broke the "Touching Rule". Merryn shared her vision about a law which would require public schools to provide age-appropriate curriculum on child sexual abuse prevention in grades pre-K though 5. Within a week of meeting Merryn, she and Chief Langloss met with Senator Tim Bivins of Dixon to discuss her vision. Senator Bivins and Representative Jerry Mitchell sponsored the bill in the Senate and House of Representatives.
On February, 14, 2011, Governor Pat Quinn signed Public Act 96-1524 into law. The Act created the "Erin's Law Task Force". 19 members were carefully selected based on highly specialized experience in the field of child sexual abuse and academia. School administrators, teachers, counselors, researchers, academic curriculum experts, child protective services, children's advocacy centers, and law enforcement met for more than 9 months. Chief Langloss was selected to represent the task force as the Chairman. The final report has been completed and submitted to Governor Quinn. Representative Mitchell has drafted a bill that will be heard in the upcoming Veto Session.
Chief Langloss stated, "It is time to move forward with the next phase of this campaign. This will make our children safer from these child predators. In the wake of Penn State, Syracuse, and many other high profile child sexual abuse cases, we can no longer sit back and do nothing. Law enforcement must lead the way, and we are prepared to do exactly that." Through the Northwest Law Enforcement Chiefs and Sheriffs Association, 16 police agencies across 7 counties will be disseminating more than 10,000 child sexual abuse awareness flyers during traffic stops and other community events. Chief Langloss said, "Just by brining awareness to this issue, we make our children safer. When parents speak to their children about this topic, it makes them safer. Perpetrators are very good at picking kids who do not tell. This has been the best kept secret across our entire country. That is why it is referred to as the "Silent Epidemic". Someone is more likely to stop and help a battered dog then come forward and help a child being sexually abused. That is unacceptable."
The flyer was designed by the Dixon Police Department. Dixon Direct of Dixon mass produced these flyers for free. The agencies participating in this campaign are: Dixon Police Department, Lee County Sheriff's Department, Amboy Police Department, Oregon Police Department, Rochelle Police Department, Byron Police Department, Polo Police Department, Forreston Police Department, Lena Police Department, Stephenson County Sheriff's Department, Freeport Police Department, Sterling Police Department, Morrison Police Department, Carroll County Sheriff's Department, Cherry Valley Police Department, and Sycamore Police Department.
Anyone who wishes to report child abuse can contact their local police department, children advocacy center, or the Department of Children and Family Services at 1-800-25-ABUSE. Anyone seeking further information about child sexual abuse can contact the Dixon Police Department at 815/288-4411 or the Shining Star Children's Center at 815/284-1891.