When you learn about a law that shocks and horrifies you, what are you going to do about it?
Alison Arngrim, best known for playing Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie
, was sexually abused as a child by a family member. She didn't share her story with the world until, in her 40s, she learned about a California law that included a loophole—the so-called "incest exception"—allowing sexual predators to avoid jail time, even if convicted, if they were related to their victims. Although California wasn't the only state with such a law, that's where she focused her attention.
With the support of the National Association to Protect Children, Alison appeared on Larry King Live
. In interview after interview, she told her harrowing story, hoping to inform the public and repeal the law. She testified in front of the California Senate along with other abuse victims with similar stories, an experience she calls "absolutely petrifying."
A corrective bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Jim Battin, passed unanimously.
Today, Alison tells OWN, she has a message for others who want to change the world. First, she says, you need to know who your state and federal legislative representatives are. You can find your representative in Washington at House.gov
. On the state level, you can find your representatives on your state's .gov website or a site like OpenStates.org
The other two components, Alison says, are understanding how laws are passed and making sure you vote in local elections. "[Local politicians] are going to be your state representatives eventually, and, will turn out later, they can become your governor or even your president," Alison says.
"Huge decision are made that affect you more directly at the local level."