Lauren Book is an Educator, Child Advocate,Wife, Mother and Author of It’s okay to tell and Lauren’s Kingdom. A memoir and a children’s book geared toward child sexual abuse prevention. Alongside her being an amazing and courageous individual she is one of the 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States. If this wasn’t enough Lauren is president and founder of an organization out in Florida called Lauren’s Kids. Her organization’s mission is to educate adults and children about sexual abuse prevention through in-school curricula, awareness campaigns and speaking engagements around the country and the world.
Child sexual abuse is an issue that’s usually swept underneath the rug, how did you find the courage to bring the prevention aspect into classrooms?
I began my career as a classroom teacher, and I saw the power in education. I also know as an advocate in this space that 90% of the time a child is abused, it’s at the hands of someone they know and trust. A classroom is a safe space for kids to learn and grow, and children develop a good rapport with their teachers, so they are likely to disclose if they are feeling unsafe (kids are actually most likely to report to their mothers, and second most likely to report to a teacher). Lauren’s Kids teaches personal safety from a place of fun – and not fear – and we make our curriculum really easy to plug into classrooms.
Considering that you have traveled to schools educating children on sexual abuse prevention has there since been any children that have spoken up as a result of your organization spreading awareness.
Absolutely – here is just one example: http://www.gainesville.com/news/20160907/OK-to-tell-girl-hears-laurens-kingdom-reports-abuse
Your passion behind your organization is to ensure that children that are being abused or have been will be able to speak up as a result of your own story of being abused. At what age did the abuse start for you?
My abuse began when I was 11 years old. I was working in my mom’s chocolate shop with my nanny, Waldina, when she scolded me for chewing my gum too loudly. When I responded “Oh yeah? What are you going to do about it?” in my sassy 11 year old way, she came toward me and took the gum out of my mouth with her tongue. That was the first overtly sexual action Waldina had taken, and things got much, much worse very, very quickly. Looking back, I know she was testing my boundaries. When I didn’t report to my parents what she had done with the gum, she knew I was too scared to speak up and that she could continue to victimize me.
Looking back at your personal experience do you feel like you would’ve confided in someone and spoke up about the abuse if prevention was taught in your school?
Yes, I absolutely would have spoken up.We cannot prevent 100% of abuse – but we CAN help kids come forward much, much sooner, after the first incidence. I found my voice and disclosed when I was 16, after years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. If I had had a program like the one we teach, I know I would have been able to come forward earlier.
Most importantly in pursuing your mission of sexual abuse prevention what do you feel like has been the greatest satisfaction through it all?
My greatest satisfaction has been receiving letters from teachers who tell us about the difference we are making for the children in their classrooms. We’ve created something that will live on for generations to come, and have changed the way we talk about and consider personal safety education. And, we’re keeping kids safe in ways that I myself was never able to be kept safe. I know it’s working.