When you meet Erin Merryn, you realize she is a woman on a mission. Her view of the world forever changed at the tender age of six, when she went to a sleepover at a best friend's house. There, she would be sexually abused for the first time. For the next two and a half years, she was abused and raped by an adult neighbor. He told her he would hurt her if she told anyone, so she stayed silent. Her saving grace came when she moved at 8 ½ years old. Little did she know moving was getting her that much closer to the next abuser in her life
Ms. Merryn spent 5 years of her childhood keeping her abuse a secret. After breaking her silence, she went down a destructive path of depression, self-injury, anorexia and a suicide attempt. She was ashamed to talk about what happened to her until she confronted one of her abusers in high school, which lead her on an unstoppable crusade to end the stigma and silence around sexual abuse. She published her childhood diary her senior year of high school to give children the voice she never had.
Ms. Merryn knew by the age of 12 she wanted to be a social worker, but struggled throughout elementary and high school to do well. However, she was determined to go to college even when she was tested by a school psychologist and it was determined she had a learning disability. Although teachers and counselors told her she would amount to nothing, one thing they didn't know was she accomplishes what she sets out to do. Not only did she get accepted into college, she graduated with honors and 5 years out of high school, she graduated with her masters in social work.
The obstacles didn't end there. In January 2008, Ms. Merryn suffered a grand mal seizure while driving. Neurologists were stunned when they got her MRI back to discover her left temporal lobe was gone due to a virus she got as a newborn. Even more incredible was the fact that the missing area is where speech, writing and short term memory are developed. This explained why she struggled in school with her short term memory. Doctors were speechless that she is gifted as a speaker and writer, two things that she should have noticeable challenges with.
In 2010, Ms. Merryn began a crusade to get Erin's Law passed across America. This law requires personal body safety taught to children Pre-K to 12th grade through an age appropriate curriculum. Ms. Merryn successfully passed it in her state of Illinois in 2013 and has been traveling from one state capital to another testifying to state lawmakers to pass it. To date, it is passed in nearly half the country and pending in many more.
Ms. Merryn is author of Stolen Innocence, Living for Today and An Unimaginable Act, both memoirs. In November 2012, Glamour Magazine named her Woman of the Year and she was honored in Carnegie Hall before 3,000 people. People Magazine named her a HEROES Among Us in April 2013 and one of fifteen women changing the world in their June 2014 issue, alongside Oprah and Hilary Clinton. She has made numerous media appearances, including on Oprah, Katie Couric, CNN, Good Morning America, MSNBC, Fox, Windy City Live, Jane Velez Mitchell, 700 Club, Montel, Al Jazeera and many more. She has appeared in Time Magazine, USA Today, London Times, Huffington Post, Cosmo Girl Magazine, among others.
Carl M. Price
Mr. Price is a foster care alumni, cancer survivor, United States Navy veteran, and founder of CarlM.Price.com He now mentors youth throughout the country who are in or have been in foster care. Mr. Price also works with many department and organizations who work with children and racial justice in communities because he knows first-hand the experiences many youth face while in and after receiving care. Using his own personal experience, from when he was in foster care and understanding the struggles these youth face, Mr. Price is able to give a perspective many are unable too. Surviving cancer, poverty, despair, complex trauma and foster care, he is a serious advocate for addressing the trauma most children in foster care face as well as the trauma those who help these children often experience.