Miami Sex Abuse Victim Finishes Fourth Walk Across Florida
Around this time of year, a lot of people walk to achieve the highly coveted yellow-polka-dot-bikini body.
Lauren Book walks to help mend lives.
Book ended her fourth annual trek on Tuesday, walking 1,500 miles from Key West to Tallahassee.
She was joined on the last mile of the trip by an army of supporters in blue shirts adorned with footprints and the words “Walk In My Shoes 2013.”
“We walk because it's okay to tell,” Book said. “Children (and) survivors need to know that it's okay to tell.”
“Pedophiles look and act just like you and me,” Book told a crowd gathered outside the Old Capitol. “90 percent of the time, children are abused by someone they know, they love, and they trust.”
At the age of 11, Book became a victim of sexual abuse in her own home. She says her nanny abused her until she was 16 years old.
“It went on 365 days a year, seven days a week. There were no breaks,” Book said in a video on her Lauren’s Kids website. “It was a very obviously tragic and awful experience.”
Book eventually was able to share her secret with a guidance counselor and get help. The nanny, Waldina Flores, is now in prison.
Book created Lauren’s Kids to help prevent sexual assault through education and awareness, while helping survivors cope.
Book has worked arduously with her father, lobbyist Ron Book, to expand the rights of sexual assault victims.
In 2011, the Books helped pass the “Walk in Their Shoes” Act in Florida. The law says
similar evidence against a defendant in other cases can be used in child molestation cases.
A year later, the “Protection of Vulnerable Persons” bill passed, requiring anyone in Florida who suspects child sexual abuse to report it.
Lauren's Kids also helped create an abuse prevention curriculum for kindergartners called Safer, Smarter Kids. It's now in every public kindergarten classroom and guidance office in Florida.
The walk began March 19 and ended on April 24, coinciding with National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
WLRN intern LaCrai Mitchell contributed to this report.