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Feb 16

Lauren Book ‘Walks’ to stop sexual abuse

By Wesley Martin

Photo by Wesley Martin: Lauren Book (left) talks to committed community volunteer

“It shouldn’t hurt to be a child,” said Lauren Book, founder of Lauren’s Kids. “You should be able to walk down the sidewalk and play hopscotch … the fact is that were just not there yet.”

On Monday, Feb. 13, supporters and advocates for child sexual abuse prevention gathered at Seville Square to welcome Book.

A former victim of sexual abuse for six years at the hand of her nanny, Book’s organization, Lauren’s Kids, assembles Florida’s statewide “Walk in My Shoes” event where she treks 1,500 miles.

The annual affair is also used to raise awareness and promote supportive legislation while it partners with local agencies on their walk.

“Gulf Coast Kids’ House is Escambia County’s children advocacy center,” said Stacey Kostevicki, executive director.

Kostevicki says that before her agency was established, the protocol in place was insensitive to many victims.

“Before we existed,” she said, “children were forced to tell their story of abuse to seven or eight agencies … so an already traumatic experience became even more traumatic. What we can be proud of is that our community recognized that there was a better way to do this.”

Book agreed and said subjecting children to multiple interviews can feel intimidating like cross-examination.

“And, if just one inconsistency comes about, from the eight different stories they had to tell, the case is gone,” she added.

Book also said giving children a sense of safety is important to move beyond abusive events. But she urged others to do more.

“I know what it’s like to need that safety,” she said. “But ninety-five percent of sexual abuse is preventable with education and awareness. If we keep talking about it and if we keep walking about it, I believe that it will happen.”

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