A young woman who overcame years of physical and sexual abuse, and then worked to change Florida law to better protect the rights of victims, arrived Tuesday at the historic Capitol steps after a 500-mile walk throughout the state during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Lauren Book-Lim, who endured childhood sexual abuse for six years at the hands of her nanny, concluded her journey of healing and awareness with a rally at the Capitol, where she called for funding for rape crisis centers and passage of legislation to protect victims of sexual abuse, including SB 870, which eliminates the statute of limitations in cases of sexual battery where the victim is younger than 16.
“As this walk illustrates, there is no statute of limitations on healing – it’s a lifelong journey,” Book-Lim said. “So why should there be a statute of limitations on prosecuting predators who inflict this trauma on children?”
The final mile of her 500-mile journey across the state began at the Governor’s Square Mall, continued up Apalachee Parkway and finished at the historic Capitol steps, where walkers were greeted by a slideshow documenting the walk and by the speeches of Governor Charlie Crist and legislative leaders.
“The goal of this walk was to raise awareness, and I know we have begun the discussion in many homes across the state,” said Book-Lim. “Everyone needs to know that it is always OK to tell someone about abuse.”
Thousands of people turned out to walk with Book-Lim along the way. They included advocates and victims, local and state officials – from county commissioners and court clerks to Attorney General Bill McCollum, as well as sports celebrities, such as Dolphins fullback Lousaka Polite and quarterback Tyler Thigpen. She fielded calls during the walk from NBA All-Star game MVP Dwyane Wade and future NBA Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning.
The walk also generated intense public interest, with more than 15,000 visits to Book-Lim’s Web site, laurenskids.org, which has gotten over 16,000 viewers of her photos of the walk and 2,000 viewers of her live streaming video feed.
Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, said Lauren’s walk has also been instrumental in raising legislative awareness about the importance of funding sexual assault treatment.
“Healing starts by telling someone what happened to you,” Dritt said. “But someone must be there to hear your story, to help you with your recovery, and possibly to see you through the justice system. That’s why funding for rape crisis and sexual assault centers is so critically important.”
Here is some of the legislation Book-Lim is supporting this session:
Funding for sexual assault services
Book-Lim is encouraging House budget negotiators to accept the Senate funding level of $250,000 for statewide sexual assault services in the Legal Affairs budget.
Increases the penalty for people convicted of certain sexual offenses for being within 300 feet of a school, childcare facility, park, bus stop or playground.
Provides a check-off on motor vehicle registration and renewal forms for a voluntary contribution to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse.
Adds an additional court cost or surcharge of $151 against a defendant who pleads guilty or no contest to, or is found guilty of, any of the criminal offenses listed in the bill. The additional surcharges will be used to fund rape crisis centers statewide.