Last week kicked off National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. So, April is the perfect time to walk for child sexual abuse prevention!
We were excited to have a senior writer from Newsweek join us on the road last week. She is writing a story about child sexual abuse and the Walk in My Shoes education and awareness journey. We will share when the story is published!
Education was a huge theme throughout the week on the road. We had several school visits and Lauren’s Kingdom book reading events to reinforce important safety lessons. The messages focused on empowering children to speak up with the knowledge that “it’s OK to tell.”
Also, last week we participated in a taping for a Darkness2Light symposium that will air in May. This piece will feature messages from thriving survivors. One of the key elements of the Lauren’s Kids mission is to help survivors heal with guidance and support. Walk in My Shoes is one of the ways survivors can get involved in the movement and witness the incredible support from the community.
On Tuesday, I visited the Florida Civil Commitment Center for the second time and sat down with sexually violent predators and the clinicians who treat them. I visit these facilities in an effort to understand how to better protect children. This issue is multifaceted, multi-layered and anything but simple. We must continually ask questions like, “How do they gain access to children?” And, “How can we stop this living, breathing threat to childhood?”
The clinicians we spoke with reaffirmed what I already knew to be true – you cannot “cure” an individual of pedophilia or their desire to offend against children. You can, however, identify and manage triggers. Even with the type of intensive, four-phase, multi-year therapy these sexually violent predators complete, they will always have the underlying urge to offend. That’s why it’s so important for our legislators to act this session to require mandatory supervision for released violent offenders. Related bills include HB 407 sponsored by Rep. Charlie Stone and SB 410 introduced by Sen. Charles Dean. Find out more about 2015 legislative priorities that will help protect children here.
Rep. Workman and Rep. Mayfield joined us for some long walk days in support of our mission. We were also happy to have Rep. Plasencia and Danielle Sullivan, the force behind the 43 Days Initiative, join us in Brevard County for a 17-mile walk this week. Danielle is working tirelessly to eliminate the Florida Statute of Limitations for victims of sexual assault age 16 years and older. Way to go, Danielle! Thank you for participating in the Walk in My Shoes journey and we support you!
Our time in Vero Beach was one of the toughest, hottest days on the road so far. While walking 28 miles without a cloud in the sky, we enjoyed the company and support of our friends John and Cory Terry. They walked with us in memory of Scott Terry, a courageous survivor who shared his story 25 years after the abuse he endured to help corroborate the stories of other survivors. Scott passed away last year just a few months before the Walk he loved so much. He’ll always be a part of the Walk in My Shoes event and his memory and spirit live on with us. Each year, we remember Scott by placing a flying fish sticker on the door of the Walk in My Shoes bus so he’s with us as we travel all the way to Tallahassee!
This week, we are headed through Orange, Hernando, Marion, Alachua, St. John’s and Duval Counties. Come walk with us!