Dear friends and LK family –
As I sit here flipping through old photos and reflecting on milestones from the past 15 years, I am struck by how much has changed since December 2007 when I first founded Lauren’s Kids. Back in those days, having disclosed my abuse only a few short years before, I was still deep in the trenches of trauma, going to college while also doing the hard work to heal. Armed with little more than a drive to make things different, the support of my dad – one of Florida’s top lawyer/lobbyists – and the critical knowledge that 95 percent of abuse IS preventable with education and awareness, we got to work.
In those early years, it was just dad and me. We focused on shaping the law with legislative advocacy, working to raise public awareness, and operating a hotline for survivors, which rang directly to my cell phone. We put up billboards across the state, and while calls were trickling in, it was nowhere the volume we expected considering the prevalence of abuse. Very quickly, I realized folks weren’t calling because the issue of child sexual abuse was so stigmatized and taboo that not even survivors felt comfortable talking about it.
We knew things had to change, and I believed (as I still do) that education was the key…so I began trekking from school to school and classroom to classroom in my native South Florida, teaching safety lessons to students, educators, and parents. Often, I was turned away by administrators who told me, “No thanks, we don’t have that problem here.” Sadly, we know the problem exists everywhere.
Slowly but surely, Lauren’s Kids found its footing, and so did I.
We began the “Walk in My Shoes” – a 500, then 1,000, and eventually 1,500-mile walk across the state of Florida, which brought together tens of thousands of survivors, advocates, and allies, and helped us influence and change dozens of Florida laws to better prevent abuse and empower survivors. Stories from the road – injustices revealed – informed our legislative agenda for the following year. Together, we were (and are) making incredible change. And while it looks a bit different these days, we’re still walking – and we’re still changing laws.
After years of refusing to take “no” for an answer, the power of education has been realized – and our prevention curriculum is now in classrooms across the country and across the world, arming children with the kinds of developmentally appropriate safety lessons and skills I wish I had been introduced to before my nanny – who will be released from prison in two months – came into our home.
And, together, with the support and strength and vulnerability of each and every one of you, we have made it so that today, 15 years later, it truly IS “OK to Tell” – it’s OK to talk about – and, it’s OK to heal. We’ve brought our message from the Florida Capitol to the U.S. Capitol – the Caribbean Basin – South Africa – and the Hague. We’ve renovated advocacy centers, won EMMY Awards, received recognitions from Presidents and Nobel laureates, and our issue and organization have graced magazine covers and billboards in Times Square. And we’re not done yet.
I am proud of the hard work we have put in together, and – though I am candidly struggling with Waldina’s impending release – I am proud of myself, too. As much as Lauren’s Kids has grown in the last 15 years, I have also grown… as an advocate, now a lawmaker; as a mother, a woman, and as a survivor who knows that this journey will always be a few steps forward, and a few steps back, and that is okay – I am okay. And, not only am I okay, but I am strong! In fact, things that would once have broken me now only serve to make me stronger, and I am able to lean into discomfort with the knowledge that growth is waiting for me on the other side.
In closing, I want to thank you. Whether you’re a survivor who has walked with us or shared your story, an educator who teaches our curriculum, a therapist or CAC administrator who provides hope and healing, a parent who wants to keep their child safe, a generous donor, or an ally in the movement, you are who and what make Lauren’s Kids a movement. In December of 2007, I lit a match. Now, fifteen years later, you are carrying the torch to shine light into dark places – and I am so grateful.
Here’s to the next fifteen years…
In love and light,