Having worked with Lauren Book and the Lauren’s Kids foundation for more than five years to raise awareness and generate media coverage about child sexual abuse, we are proud to have helped this important issue break through to the cover of Newsweek.
Fourteen years ago, teenaged Lauren Book sat in a Broward County courtroom, watching as the nanny who emotionally, physically and sexually abused her for more than half a decade was sentenced to a 15-year prison term. That was the beginning of a long journey of healing that led Book to create the Lauren’s Kids foundation, embark on an annual 1,500-mile walk to raise awareness about child sexual abuse and develop a curriculum now used in Florida public schools.
This week, Lauren and her cause are featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine, the culmination of a decade of relentless advocacy – and a pile of worn-out shoes – that has spurred a cultural change in Florida and beyond.
“Lauren has galvanized public and leadership attention on this issue,” said Dave Lawrence, founding chair of the Children’s Movement of Florida. “She personally brought it out of the shadows and made it an acceptable and necessary topic of conversation.”
Lauren won bipartisan support to make sure children in Florida are educated about how to recognize the traps abusers set, avoid becoming victims of abuse and get help if they are being victimized. In the past five years, Lauren’s Kids has worked in collaboration with the state of Florida to expand and implement Safer, Smarter Kids, an age-appropriate abuse prevention curriculum for every grade level, from pre-kindergarten through high school.
Her advocacy has also extended to highlighting the need for change in Florida laws to better protect children and victims of sexual assault and to raise the penalties for abusers. Among the laws she worked with legislators to pass are ones that:
- Eliminated the statute of limitations for sex crimes committed against children under the age of 16.
- Increased penalties for cyber sex crimes.
- Established child safety zones.
- Increased penalties for those who sexually assault individuals with developmental delays or disabilities.
- Imposed mandatory reporting/protection of vulnerable persons, with increased penalties for failure to report.
- Made admissible as evidence recordings made by children to document abuse.
The Newsweek feature is not the first time Lauren’s efforts have garnered national attention:
- In 2011, Lauren received a Congressional Medal of Merit from U.S. Senator Bill Nelson for her tireless work on behalf of children and families.
- In 2013, she was named the L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth National Honoree.
- In 2014, her work on a 30-minute television special that aired statewide in Florida, “Intimate Crimes: The Inside Story of Child Sexual Abuse,” was honored with a national Gracie Award by the Alliance for Women in the Media.
- Other video projects she has been closely involved in to raise awareness about the issue of sexual abuse have been nominated for and have earned Suncoast Regional Emmy Awards.
Besides her advocacy in Florida and nationally, Lauren has increasingly asserted an international presence to give voice to this issue. In 2014, she gave keynote addresses at the UNICEF Break the Silence Conference in Barbados and at the Dutch National Rapporteur National Symposium on Sexual Violence Against Children in The Hague, Netherlands. She also was a featured speaker last year at the Crime Stoppers International Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. She has just returned from leading abuse prevention trainings in the Turks and Caicos Islands.