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Abuse Survivor Walking 1,500 Miles to Help Others

Published: 2/13/2012

From the Pensacola News Journal

She doesn't call herself a victim, though many would.

 

She's a "thriving survivor" of childhood sexual abuse, and she's walking 1,500 miles across Florida to advocate for legislative and social change.

 

Lauren Book, who was physically and sexually abused by a nanny for six years as a child in South Florida, was welcomed into Seville Square on Monday evening. Pensacola is one of dozens of stops on Book's third annual "Walk in My Shoes" journey.

Her trek began in Key West on Jan. 14 and will end Feb. 22 on the steps of the Capitol in Tallahassee.

 

"Kids should be able to go down the street and play hopscotch," Book said. "Ninety-five percent of abuse can be prevented by education and awareness."

 

Book, 27, is supporting legislation including measures to require a timely HIV test of the abuser, prevent abusers from contacting victims, fund abuse treatment centers and extend the length of time during which child sexual abusers can be prosecuted. The event Monday was sponsored by Gulf Coast Kid's House, which works with partner agencies to coordinate investigation of child abuse and promote awareness in Escambia County.

 

Gulf Coast Kid's House executive director Stacey Kostevicki thanked a shivering crowd for attending.

 

Since Jan. 14, Book has burned through three pairs of tennis shoes. She traveled 500 miles the first year of "Walk in My Shoes" and 1,000 miles in 2011.

 

"We're going to keep talking about it and keep walking about it," Book said, bouncing from toe-to-toe to stay warm.

 

Book, the eldest daughter of Florida lawyer and lobbyist Ron Book, wrote a memoir about her experience, "It's OK to Tell."

 

In 2007, she founded Lauren's Kids, a nonprofit group that aims to educate adults and children about sexual abuse through legislation, in-school curriculum, a 24-hour crisis hotline and the walk.

 

Last year, the Florida legislature gave the group $1.5 million to create a curriculum for kindergarten children. Schools across the state should receive the kit during February, said spokesperson Jessica Clark.

 

Book, who has a degree in education from the University of Miami, created curriculum to teach children about body boundaries, and the difference between safe secrets and secrets that need to be told, Clark said.

 

"People think abusers are dirty old men, or winos waiting behind a trash can," Book said. "But the truth is 90 percent of the time, the abuser is someone the child knows, loves and trusts."

 

Waldina Flores, the nanny that abused Book from age 11 to age 17, is currently serving a jail sentence, including an additional 15 years for contacting Book from jail.

 

Read the full article at pnj.com


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