Dear friends and LK family –
Today marks the beginning of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Every year, this month of significance provides an opportunity to shine light in dark places, elevate survivors’ voices, and educate communities about ways to prevent abuse and support survivors.
This year, Lauren’s Kids is encouraging survivors, advocates, and allies to STAND IN YOUR POWER during the month of April. Our 2022 campaign theme captures the strength and resilience of survivors and honors the allies and advocates who have joined us in the fight for hope, healing, and prevention. We have come a long way since I first disclosed my own abuse in 2001 – changing laws to protect children and keep predators at bay; creating a fund to ensure services are available for all survivors, regardless of ability to pay; creating an education program that is being used to teach millions of children about personal safety each year; and more – but we still have a long way to go. Together, we are a powerful army for change.
We chose the theme of standing in your power because no matter who we are – how old or young, big or small, rich or poor, loud or quiet – each and every one of us has personal power and a role to play in the fight against sexual violence. Standing in your power could mean finding the courage to disclose abuse, or teaching personal safety to children. It could mean finding the strength to ask for help, even during the darkest of times, or believing a friend; standing up for affirmative consent, counseling survivors, doing the hard work to heal from victim to survivor, and thriver; using your voice to create change. No matter what standing in your power looks like in your life, I am grateful to stand alongside you as we work to create a world where sexual abuse is no longer tolerated.
In my own journey, standing in my power has meant different things during different seasons of my life…
Gathering the courage and strength to tell about my abuse after years of suffering in silence and fear
Committing to my healing journey, even at times when it’s been one step forward and two steps back
Walking 1,500 miles across the state of Florida to raise awareness, empower survivors, and advocate for change
Using my voice to advocate for myself and others, and working to keep children safe in ways I wasn’t
Recently, life threw me two curveballs which have forced me to grow, heal, and stand in my power in new ways:
After being victimized by a cyber attack in which personal photos were stolen and “deepfake” images were created then uploaded, sold, and traded on the dark web in an effort to silence my advocacy and intimidate me, I was left feeling incredibly violated and vulnerable. Never in my life would I have thought that I would become a victim of another sex crime. But instead of being forced into silence and fear, as the perpetrators intended, I chose to stand in my power to fight back against cyber trafficking and digital sex crimes by working with my colleagues in the Florida legislature to change the law so that it’s now caught up with technology.
This second piece brings me right back to where everything began. My abuser has been behind bars for nearly 20 years; in 325 days, she will be released. I have lived my entire adult life with my abuser unable to hurt me or any other child victim and am now very much struggling with the reality that she will soon be free. After she fled South Florida to escape arrest, the police found her coaching 10-year-old little girls in soccer. I was 10 when she came into my life, 11 when the abuse began. What will stop her from preying upon another innocent child? The answer is truly nothing, except incarceration.
I cannot control what will happen next. That’s the harsh reality, and it scares me every day. But I can, and you can, and we as a society can and must, do everything in our power to educate children and adults about how to keep kids safe and recognize the signs of grooming. We can and must continue to fight to create legislative change to prevent abuse, keep predators away from kids, and empower survivors as they work to heal and thrive. Together, we have that power.
As we make our way through the month of April, I hope you’ll join me by standing in your power in whatever that means to you. Throughout the month, we’ll be exploring and honoring different ways that advocates, allies, and survivors can stand in their own power:
We’ll also be walking in our power this April, with our second “42 Miles for the 42 Million” virtual awareness and fundraising walk. Register to join us and win cool prizes for walking and raising at LaurensKidsWalk.org.
And, we are asking survivors, advocates, and allies to lend their voices to our new crowdsourced PSA – sharing how YOU stand in YOUR power. Learn more and submit your video here by April 6.
This and every month, I am grateful for every single person who has joined in the work to combat sexual violence. In a world where 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will suffer sexual abuse before graduating from high school, and 1 in 5 children who touches a digital device will be sexually solicited online, each one of us has a role to play in keeping kids safe.
Thank you for being a part of this work and an important member of our team.
I’ll talk with you soon,