Lauren Book kicks off 1500-mile ‘Walk in My Shoes’ trek to raise awareness about protecting children – Florida Politics

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Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book may soon be leaving office due to term limits, but she’s still running — in a way.

Book just kicked off a 1,500-mile trek across Florida to teach residents about how to better protect their children and empower survivors of abuse.

The month-long campaign is called “Walk in My Shoes.” Book is running it through her nonprofit foundation, Lauren’s Kids, to coincide with National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“April is a time to raise awareness and educate communities so that we can keep kids safe — and that’s what our 1,500-mile ‘Walk in My Shoes’ event is about,” Book said in a statement Wednesday. “One in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will suffer sexual abuse before graduating high school – and 1 in 5 children who touch a digital device will be sexually solicited online. The statistics are staggering, but the solution is clear: 95% of child sexual abuse IS preventable with education and awareness. Together, we can absolutely create change and protect childhood, and it all starts with education.”

The walk began Wednesday morning at the Southernmost Point Buoy in Key West. Participants will crisscross through the state for the next three weeks, from South Florida to west-central Florida, up Jacksonville and across the Peninsula through Tallahassee to Panama City. There are more than 20 stops.

Several organizations are partnering with Lauren’s Kids, including Bikers Against Child Abuse, sexual assault treatment centers, children’s advocacy centers, child protection units and local schools, among others.

Book, a former educator, will also visit classrooms to teach lessons from her foundation’s Emmy Award-winning, nationally used Safer, Smarter Kids and Safer, Smart Teens abuse-prevention programs.

Public participation in the walk is welcome, with prior registration. Image via Lauren’s Kids.

Lauren’s Kids is also working to spread word about locally available resources in the communities Book will visit, including affiliates of the Florida Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence.

“Even if we do not realize it, statistically, each one of us knows someone who has experienced sexual violence — and each one of us likely knows a perpetrator, too,” Florida Council Against Sexual Violence Executive Director Jennifer Dritt said in a statement. “It is up to us all to educate ourselves, and we are proud to work with Lauren’s Kids to become a part of the solution.”

Book began “Walk in My Shoes” in 2010 as a way to navigate through her own healing journey, walking from the home in which she was abused for years by a childhood nanny to the steps of the Historic Florida Capitol. The walk grew over the next eight years to include thousands of participants.

According to Lauren’s Kids, there are more than 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse living in the United States today, including at least 1 million children in Florida. It remains among the most unreported crimes in the country.

Registration for “Walk in My Shoes” is open to the public. Click here for more information on each stop and to register to participate.


— April 3: “Walk in My Shoes” kickoff from the Southernmost Point Buoy in Key West.

— April 4: South Dade walk in Homestead with MUJER.

— April 5: Miami-Dade County school visits and walk from Goulds to Coral Gables.

— April 6: Miami-Dade County morning walk in Miami from Brickell to Wynwood with Kristi House Children’s Advocacy Center; afternoon walk from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens to North Miami.

— April 7: Broward County morning walk from Dania Beach to Fort Lauderdale; afternoon walk from Fort Lauderdale to Oakland Park with the Nancy J. Cotterman Center.

— April 8: Broward County morning walk in Weston; afternoon school visit in Davie.

— April 9: Palm Beach County walk from Boca Raton to Palm Beach with Palm Beach County Victim Services.

— April 10: Naples to Fort Myers walk with Project HELP.

— April 11: Sarasota to Bradenton walk with Safe Place Rape Crisis Center.

— April 12: Service project at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Brevard; Melbourne to Cocoa Beach walk.

— April 13: Short morning walk in Orlando with the Victims Services Center of Central Florida, followed by a longer walk to Winter Park.

— April 14: Pasco County walk with Pasco Kids First.

— April 15: Ocala walk beginning at Grand Oaks Town Center.

— April 16: St. Augustine walk with the Betty Griffin Center.

— April 18: Jacksonville walk with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville.

— April 19: Gainesville School visit and walk with the Child Advocacy Center of Gainesville.

— April 20: Tampa walk.

— April 21: St. Petersburg walk.

— April 22: Tallahassee school visit and walk.

— April 24: Marianna Walk with the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center.

— April 25: Pensacola Walk with the Gulf Coast Kid’s House.

— April 26: Fort Walton Beach walk with the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center.

— April 27: Panama City walk and afterparty with the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center.

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