Like most victims of abuse, Lauren Book was frightened, scared silent for years until she finally broke down and told a therapist about the atrocities she endured from the age of 11 to 16 at the hands of the family nanny.
No longer a victim, Book, now 27, is battling abuse on a variety of levels. She has a website, www.laurenskids.org, and an abuse crisis hotline. A former kindergarten teacher, she has drafted a “Safer, Smarter Kids” curriculum to help children become aware of “what are appropriate and inappropriate touches.”
And last week, she took her campaign to the streets for the third straight year with “Walk in My Shoes,” a 1,500-mile, six-day trek from Key West to the doors of the state Capitol in Tallahassee. The walk brings survivors like Book together with advocates like the Boca Raton law firm of Ellis, Ged & Bodden to raise awareness and promote sexual abuse prevention.
“Walk in My Shoes” kicked off its swing through Boca Raton early Jan. 30. Participants stopped at City Hall to watch as Mayor Susan Whelchel offered a rousing endorsement of the anti-abuse drive. Ellis, Ged & Bodden CEO C. Glen Ged then officially presented Lauren’s Kids a $5,000 check donated by the firm.
Dozens of Ellis, Ged & Bodden lawyers and staffers joined Book as they trekked another six miles to the North Federal Highway offices of the law firm, which has committed to supporting and advocating Book’s cause. With the walkers accompanied by a specially marked bus and car as well as a Boca police escort, the entourage rallied on the sidewalk, then broke for lunch provided by Ellis, Ged & Bodden before the core group boarded the bus for more stops on the road to Tallahassee.
The firm’s founding partners, Ged and Ronda Ellis, looked out at the crowd in front of their offices and affirmed their personal and corporate efforts to support Lauren’s cause.
“It’s nice to see so many of our employees join Lauren in her walk,” said Ged, as his and Ellis’ two children – St. Andrews School students Glen, 12, and Nicole, 10 – participated in the day’s rally. “There are more than 50 people here.”
Ged works closely with Lauren Book’s father, Ron Book, who is also the firm’s lobbyist. Together, Ged said, they want to educate children as well as the public on the serious problem of child abuse and the need for solutions.
“Even if you are not directly affected by child abuse, everyone knows someone who has been impacted by it,” said Ronda Ellis, sitting on a couch in the lobby with her two children. “This is such a global thing. We thank God we have not been affected.”
Ellis said she sees the couple’s role as “doing the right thing” for children injured and traumatized by abuse.
It’s something Lauren Book has committed herself to doing for years. She has even written a book, “It’s OK to Tell: A story of Hope and Recovery,” which describes her own physical and sexual torment at the hands of a woman who Book says knew how and where to touch children so the marks weren’t obvious to parents.
Book has also worked closely with her dad to pass legislation aimed at helping victims of abuse. One measure adopted during the 2010 session and signed into law by the governor allows service dogs to accompany abused children into the courtroom if they are required to testify against those who harmed them. Dogs help calm the children, Lauren Book said, and reduce the fear of facing their abuser.
In light of the recent scandals at Penn State and Syracuse University, Book is supporting another proposed law that would penalize universities for covering up incidents of abuse.
Her father said he will continue to use his passion and skill to support his daughter’s campaign.
“Her efforts deserve our attention,” Ron Book said. “Too many children in America are suffering in silence. Let’s join Lauren – and walk tall to raise awareness and education of this silent epidemic.”
Outside Boca Raton City Hall, Lauren Book, second from right, is accompanied by, from left, Glen Ged, Nicole Ged, Ronda Ellis, C. Glen Ged and Boca Raton Mayor Susan Whelchel as a $5,000 check from the Ellis, Ged & Bodden law firm is presented to Lauren’s Kids.
Participants in “Walk in My Shoes” gather in front of the bus outside the offices of Ellis, Ged & Bodden in Boca Raton.
Walkers include, from left, Lauren Book, Ronda Ellis, Gled Ged, Nicole Ged and C. Glen Ged.
Photo Credit: Photos by Janis Bucher
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