We are more than halfway through Walk in My Shoes already?!? It appears time flies when you’re walking hundreds of miles up and across Florida with a sea of incredible supporters! If you didn’t already know, April 1st marked the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and we kicked off the week by walking through Sarasota, Bradenton, Clearwater, Tampa, St. Pete, and Orlando. We started the month off with a bold statement of awareness: a kick-off rally at Manatee Glens, which is an amazing center and a wonderful resource for the community.
During our time at Manatee Glens, I had the opportunity to connect with Ken Followell, the President of MaleSurvivor, and Tony Lanza, both of whom were featured prominently in Intimate Crimes, a 30 minute television special educating parents and caregivers about how to better protect their children from being victims of sexual abuse. I’m excited to note that Intimate Crimes has been picked up by TV stations throughout Florida and will be broadcasted on a station near you!
In Tampa, we participated in a parenting seminar with the incredible young women of Alpha House, and taught some key topics from the Safer, Smarter Kids curriculum to young mothers and mothers-to-be. These young mothers (as young as 12, 13, 14) are survivors of sexual abuse, trafficking, substance abuse…they come from all walks of life and now have so much strength and depth. As a survivor, I know how important it is for young children to have strong caretakers in their lives and I know these young women are going to be advocates for their children. It was a fun day, but more importantly it was an insightful day. I am continuously reminded how I am still learning and growing from these experiences.
I’m always jazzed for Orlando because it means we have reached the mid-way point of our Walk in My Shoes journey! This year, the city of Orlando turned Lake Eola blue for the month in honor of child abuse prevention (blue) and sexual assault awareness (teal!). As if that wasn’t exiting enough, the Bikers Against Child Abuse America (BACA) also came out and met us at the Lake Eola press conference with DCF and State Attorney Jeff Ashton. They are an AWESOME group of folks who help abused kids feel safe by accompanying them to court dates and sit in their driveway all night, kind of like a personal body guard, so that the kids can sleep.
Looking into week four, I’m amazed at all the positive support and energy we’ve received throughout our journey….I couldn’t do it without you guys! Next stop, Deland, Daytona, Ocala, Gainesville, Green Cove Springs, and Saint Augustine. Stay tuned…!