There are so many abuse survivors and advocates around the world who have turned their darkest moments into their brightest light, shining the way for others. Children and adults alike are changing the world through their dedication to spreading awareness and promoting healing for survivors. Our “Advocacy in Action” series features people who have been inspired by Lauren’s Kids and impacted by Lauren’s advocacy, and have carried the spark she lit forward into their own lives and communities. We hope you enjoy reading their stories…
Advocacy in Action: Finding Strength in the Truth
A little girl with a confident personality found her young and carefree spirit tarnished at age 6 by the horrors of childhood sexual abuse. Allison’s abuse occurred during a martial arts summer camp at the hands of her adult instructor. After the abuse, she no longer wore dresses, tank tops, skirts, or shorts above the knee. Her loved ones missed the signs of abuse, believing her transformation was a result of her becoming a tomboy.
Several years later, Allison disclosed her abuse to her mother while watching Saturday morning cartoons. She immediately began therapy to help her deal with the secret she had lived with for so long. Allison found healing through weekly group therapy sessions with other children that had been sexually abused. She was never alone, but after these sessions she knew that for herself.
The State Attorney’s Office decided to prosecute the case and after depositions, interviews and pre-trial hearings, the trial began. Despite the many attempts made by the defense attorney to discredit Allison’s testimony, she remembered what Ryan Williams, the state prosecutor had told her: “Just tell the truth, that is your only job today.”
In 2011 Lauren’s Kids had lobbied to pass the “Walk in Their Shoes Act” which expands the admissibility of collateral crime or “similar fact” evidence in cases where a person is charged with child molestation or a sexual offense. In addition to Allison’s testimony, the state attorney was able to use “similar fact” evidence during the trial. This additional testimony by another victim of Allison’s abuser was vital to the ultimate conviction of Allison’s abuser, because it allowed the jury to see a pattern of crime. The conviction validated her voice and let her know how important it really was to speak up.
“Without Lauren and Ron Book’s work on lobbying ‘similar fact’ evidence, I am unsure of where we would be today,” says Allison’s mom, Meredith. “Would her perpetrator be in prison? Would the conviction have happened? How would Allison be today without receiving justice?”
Allison and Meredith look forward to raising awareness about childhood sexual abuse by walking in their first Walk In My Shoes event in April 2015. In addition, Meredith is honored to help in the local committee of the Orlando section of the walk.
Allison now has a goal in life to become a therapist and treat children who have been sexually abused. She speaks openly about her story. Though it does not define her, it is part of her, and with strength and courage she can use that part of herself to help others. Her desire to speak out for others is what set her free. Allison is a survivor.