Book Plans Hike Across Florida in Honor of Penn State Victims
By focusing on the recent abuse scandal at Penn State University, abuse survivor advocate Lauren Book announced Monday she will walk from Key West to the Capitol to promote efforts to change state and federal laws.
“This is a national teaching moment,” Book, the daughter of Miami lobbyist Ron Book, stated in a release. “The Penn State and Syracuse scandals focused public attention on this neglected issue and gave us an opportunity to change laws, awareness and institutional practices in ways that can end the scourge of childhood sexual abuse.”
Book announced the journey during a media event at the Florida Press Center in Tallahassee and issued the following release:
"TALLAHASSEE, Fl. – Lauren Book, who endured childhood sexual abuse for six years at the hands of her family’s nanny, will embark on a 1,500-mile journey across Florida in January and February to raise awareness about child sexual abuse and promote changes in state and federal laws to better protect children in the wake of recent, high-profile abuse scandals. ...
"Her walk will begin on Jan. 14 in Key West and end 39 days later at the steps of the Florida Capitol, where she will advocate for changes in state law, including strengthening Florida’s child sexual abuse reporting requirement. Currently, the Florida Abuse Hotline is only obligated to accept reports if the alleged abuser is a primary caregiver. That means the hotline would not have accepted a report like the Penn State allegations, since Jerry Sandusky was not the victims’ primary caregiver.
"The third annual 'Walk in My Shoes' will bring awareness to the issue of sexual abuse and encourage victims to speak out about their experiences. In past years, many victims of childhood sexual abuse joined Lauren on the Walk and revealed their abuse for the first time. According to national statistics, one in three girls and one of five boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.
"Floridians are invited to join the walk and the dialogue on any of part the 39-day journey, which will cover nearly 1,500 miles – three times as many miles as the inaugural 2010 walk. This year, the Walk features a 39-Mile Challenge, recognizing that there are an estimated 39 million survivors of sexual abuse. To participate in the challenge, supporters can register at laurenskids.org and pledge to donate $39 dollars and walk 39 miles during the 39 days of Lauren’s walk. The walk will end in Tallahassee on Feb. 22, with a welcoming rally at the state Capitol. Along the way, Lauren will visit with local rape crisis centers, schools, college campuses and sexual assault program centers across Florida.
“The recent Penn State and Syracuse tragedies underscore what I have known for some time,” said Book. “Our society has a very high tolerance for childhood sexual abuse and this crime is vastly underreported.”
Also this month, Book’s foundation’s new “Safer, Smarter Kids” abuse prevention curriculum will be delivered to every kindergarten class and every elementary school guidance counselor in Florida, in fulfillment of a 2011 legislative directive and appropriation. The curriculum does not deal with sexual abuse explicitly, but empowers children to tell a trusted adult about any situation that makes them feel unsafe, uncomfortable or confused. The goal of the curriculum is to reduce the incidence of sexual abuse and increase disclosure by teaching children that their bodies are their own and by arming them with smart prevention strategies.
“It is essential that we educate children about how to avoid the traps predators set for them,” said Book. “We hope this curriculum will give every kindergarten student in our state the radar to recognize unsafe situations and language and tactics to deal with them.”
The walk was a dream of Lauren’s to symbolically show people what it takes to become a survivor of abuse – the ability to face the abuse, get the help of others and work toward a goal of healing. Lauren is the daughter of Miami lobbyist Ron Book. Together, they have worked to change many laws to better protect victims of sexual abuse and assault.
This year, the Books are urging the passage of HB 1355 and SB 1816, which is being sponsored by Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Heathrow, and Sen. Benacquisto, R-Glades. Included in this bill are provisions to:
- • Make it clear that all persons who are aware of child sexual abuse have an obligation to report it and that the Florida Abuse Hotline should accept those reports, even if the alleged abuser is not a direct caregiver.
- • Enhance penalties for failure to report child sexual abuse.
- • Increase criminal penalties for human trafficking.
- • Provide penalties for educational institutions that fail to report or cover up child sexual abuse.
- • Provide victim relocation assistance.
To join Lauren during her “Walk in My Shoes,” visit laurenskids.org/events_walk and register or send a donation. Visitors also can write to Lauren and follow her progress on her social media sites, including Twitter at @LaurensKids, Facebook at Lauren’s Kids and YouTube at Lauren’s Kids.