The state launched a new initiative Thursday that educates elementary school about sex abuse prevention. The effort is inspired by sexual abuse survivor Lauren Book, who’s also the creator of the new program called “Safer, Smarter Kids.”
In a kindergarten classroom of Tallahassee’s Apalachee Tapestry Magnet School of Arts, Lauren Book read a book called “Do You Have A Secret?” As she was reading, she continually asked the kids questions as part of the “Safer, Smarter Kids” curriculum.
“Do you think it’s okay to keep an unsafe secret if someone asks you too," asked Book.
"No," replied the kids.
"Louder, I can’t hear you," exclaimed Book.
"Nooo," screamed the kids.
"Very Good," Book told the kids. "It is not okay for somebody who has done something that they’re not supposed to do to tell you to keep that secret.”
Lauren Book is a sexual abuse survivor, who was abused by her nanny for six years when she was a child. She and her father now run “Lauren’s Kids,” a group that aims to educate adults and kids about sexual abuse. But, Book says she didn’t want to stop there, and unveiled her new initiative that educates elementary school kids statewide about child abuse prevention in six, 30-minute lessons:
“They learn things like their safety stop sign, which gives them five or more seconds to stop and think about how a situation makes them feel. They talk about their TFA, which is ‘Think, Feel, and Act.’ What do they think about a situation, how does it make them feel, and how are they going to act upon that? We do address the difference between safe touch and unsafe touch. And, we do that from a place of fun, not fear," said Lauren.
"And, we go over strangers! 90-percent of the time, children are abused by someone they know, they love and they trust, and a lot of times, kids think it’s somebody wearing black, with messy hair, a bad nose, that has a knife, a gun, or a sword, who’s about to kidnap them.”
Both sides of the aisle worked together in the 2011 Florida Legislature to make sure Book's initiative got funding. Democratic Senator Bill Montford says as a result of Book’s lobbying efforts, her initiative was able to get off the ground in Florida.
“When you can get the Florida Legislature to put out millions of dollars for a program that has this much of an impact and do it so quickly, you know it’s a good program," remarked Montford. "I have four grandchildren, got another one on the way, October 29th, and I’m so glad that they will have the opportunity to go through this program themselves. So, as a grandfather, as an educator, as a state senator, I fully embrace this effort.”
Book was joined by other lawmakers, like Representatives Alan Williams and Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda as well as the state’s Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins and Superintendent of Leon County Jackie Pons Schools in launching the effort.
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