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WIU alumna Merryn started her writing career when she was still in high school. Her website ( tells the story of how her sexual abuse as a child prompted her to put a voice to her pain.
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"Living for Today": New Book by WIU Alumna Gives Voice to Silent Epidemic

December 1, 2009

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MACOMB, IL -- A rainy night in October 2004, at a "Take Back the Night" rally and march at Hanson Field, marks the first time Erin Merryn spoke to a crowd about her sexual abuse. Today, Merryn can also list "Good Morning America" and the "Montel Williams Show" as other significant public venues in which she has provided a "face and voice" of a sexual abuse survivor. In addition, Merryn, who received her bachelor's degree in social work at Western Illinois University in 2008, recently published her second book, "Living for Today," released last month by HCI (Health Communications, Inc.), the publisher of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books.

Merryn started her writing career when she was still in high school. Her website ( tells the story of how her sexual abuse as a child prompted her to put a voice to her pain.

"I decided at a young age to take a stand against evil, expose it and put a silent epidemic in the spotlight. I turned my childhood diary into the book 'Stolen Innocence' and self-published it when I was a senior in high school," the text on her website homepage states.

According to Merryn, HCI republished her first book in January 2005, and after that she "began flying around the country, telling my story of the sexual abuse I endured as a child," she stated. In July 2006, she noted that she appeared on another episode of the "Montel Williams Show," on a most memorable guest update installment, which was originally recorded April 2006 at Western.

Merryn, who grew up in Schaumburg (IL), said that since she was 12 years old, she knew she wanted to be a social worker. Western's Women's Center's Take Back the Night event
-- an annual march and rally held to increase awareness of domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence, which marked its 20th anniversary in October -- was the catalyst for Merryn's interest in attending WIU.

"I had a friend already attending Western, and I had heard about 'Take Back the Night.' That sparked my interest in WIU," she explained. "I learned about Western's social work program through my own research via the Internet before attending. I wanted to get far away from my hometown and start fresh somewhere new. In 'Living for Today,' I describe Macomb as that place where I found my fresh start and a place to create new memories."

Merryn credits Western's social work program, and the faculty in it, with providing her with important preparation work and a solid background for working in the rewarding, but oftentimes difficult, field of social work.

"Karen Zellman is an incredible professor who prepared me for what life would be like in the field," she recalled. "I remember so many role-playing activities in which we acted out client and social worker. I realize now the importance of getting that practice. Karen did a great job of preparing us, and I appreciate that immensely now that I am in the field working as a youth and family counselor in the Chicago suburbs."

Merryn, who recently finished her master's degree in social work at Aurora University, continues to travel around the United States to speak out about sexual abuse. She speaks at sexual abuse advocacy centers and national conferences, and she maintains a blog (accessible via her website at to continue to fulfill her personal mission of giving voice to the "silent epidemic of sexual abuse in America."

"I want to reach those who are survivors and help them learn how they can heal their pain and live for today," she said. "Sexual abuse is the 'hush-hush' topic that many people avoid discussing, yet it has affected many lives. Oftentimes, you just don't hear about it because people are ashamed and keep quiet."

"Living for Today" is available via Merryn's website (, via HCI's website, through Amazon and at bookstores.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Communications & Marketing