On the eve of the sixth annual Walk in My Shoes event, the Lauren’s Kids foundation provided Florida legislators with a detailed research study that documents the effects of child sexual abuse on Florida taxpayers. The study identified astonishing data regarding the economic and fiscal impacts of child sexual abuse in the state. The 1,500-mile walk across Florida begins Saturday in Key West.
The study, produced by Lauren’s Kids and hand-delivered to each legislator’s office today, reveals the costly consequences of child sexual abuse on survivors’ success in every aspect of life, from education to health care to lifetime earnings. The study recognized that each victim of child sexual abuse faces an average loss of at least $210,102 in lifetime earnings. Among Florida children ages 0-19 today, this costs Florida’s economy more than $1 billion a year.
“This study paints a staggering picture and provides a reminder of the devastating impacts of child sexual abuse,” said Lauren Book, M.S.Ed., founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids. “But the good news is that 95 percent of child sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness – not only awareness of its effects on victims, but also on the larger community. That is why we work so hard to educate and empower our children.”
Book added, “We believe this study adds another dimension to the pervasive costs of child sexual abuse while adding to the public’s understanding of how this preventable scourge affects everyone – not just the victims and their families.”
Prior research has shown that victims of child sexual abuse on average earn less than their peers, are more likely to struggle with substance abuse and mental illness, and are more likely to spend their working lives sick or disabled. Children who are sexually abused are twice as likely to run away from home and more likely to report below-average grades, and female victims are twice as likely as other women to be arrested for a violent crime, leading to not only a loss of income and opportunity for the victim, but direct prison costs of $12 to $16 million a year to Florida taxpayers.
Among the findings explored in the study:
- Even using conservative estimates, between 361,923 and 596,458 Florida children are or will become victims of sexual abuse before they leave the K-12 educational system. This constitutes 9 percent to 15 percent of Florida’s current child population.
- Florida’s current cohort of youths will collectively see between $76.6 billion and $125.2 billion in lost earnings and related costs over their lifetimes. This means an annual loss of between $952 million and $1.58 billion for these children and their families.
- Child sexual abuse victims are estimated to make up between 25 percent and 35 percent of Florida’s adult female inmate population. In FY 2012-13, Florida spent $17,338 per inmate. This means that for the portion of incarcerated females with a history of child sexual abuse, Florida taxpayers spend between $12 million and $16 million annually in direct prison costs alone.
Book, who founded Lauren’s Kids to raise awareness about child sexual abuse, said the study reaffirms her commitment as she prepares for her sixth annual Walk in My Shoes. The walk ends April 22 on the steps of the Historic Capitol in Tallahassee, concluding a 42-day effort – symbolizing the 42 million individuals affected by child sexual abuse in the United States. The walk educates communities about prevention, encourages victims to speak up and supports efforts to protect children and punish perpetrators. April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The Lauren’s Kids foundation also promotes its abuse prevention curriculum, Safer, Smarter Kids, along the walk. The curriculum incorporates such topics as personal boundaries, bullying, Internet safety and how to access help. The curriculum is currently in 16,000 pre-K and kindergarten classrooms, and was expanded to grades 1-3 in the 2014-15 school year through Teachers’ Initiatives. The organization’s fourth- through twelfth-grade curricula are to be released in the 2015-16 school year.
Lauren’s Kids is an organization founded and led by Lauren Book, M.S.Ed. She is a child sexual abuse survivor, child advocate and educator who works to prevent child abuse and help survivors heal. Through in-school curriculum, legislative advocacy and speaking engagements, the Lauren’s Kids team works to educate and raise awareness about the growing issue of child sexual abuse. For more information, visit www.LaurensKids.org.