Krysta is an 18-year-old Florida State University student. She’s the reason Lauren Book marches.
Krysta’s abuse started when she was 6. She did not tell anyone for six years, until she first told a camp counselor, then her parents. Wednesday was the first time she has talked publicly about her abuse.
“My legs are shaking, my whole body is shaking,” she said while waiting for Book’s final mile of her annual 1,500-mile Walk in My Shoes march across Florida.
Before joining a crowd of more than 300 marchers, Krysta had posted her story on Facebook. It is an account similar to Book’s, molested by a caregiver. Before joining the march, Krysta left a message for her mom in Tennessee, telling her she had gone public.
“I don’t know how she will react but if anyone calls she’ll know what’s going on,” Krysta said.
Gesturing to the more than 300 people waiting to begin the march on the Capitol, she said, “This helps people who have been unable to tell or are ashamed or are afraid that it’s past time — stand up and talk about the abuse.”
Marchers wore shirts with messages written on the back stating they were walking for friends, family, LB and because “childhood should be fun.”
“I want to empower survivors. I want to let the young survivors know they have a voice,” Book said.
The message on Kaitlyn Barningham shirt was “for my future children.
“I would hope we live in a world where children are not going through sexual abuse and if they are, they can talk about it,” said Barningham, a 23-year old FSU student.
A score of lawmakers were waiting to greet the marchers at the Capitol. On hand were Sens. Jack Latvala, Kellie Stargel, Joe Abruzzo and Oscar Braynon, and Reps. Matt Gaetz, Rick Workman, Irv Slosberg, Amanda Murphy, Mike Hill and Ray Pilon.
CFO Jeff Atwater was first in line to greet the lawmakers when they stepped on the Capitol lawn.
“I want to thank Lauren and I want to thank Ron (her father) because without them, their leadership and hard work this would not have happened,” Gov. Rick Scott said to the crowd.
“You are going to make a difference for so many kids going forward,” Scott told the crowd, promising to make Florida “the safest place for a child to grow up.”
Later talking to reporters he would add, “What is great about our state is that you have people like that (Lauren Book) taking on important issues.”
Every spring for the past six years she has walked across the state talking about how she survived sexual abuse that began when she was 11. Book’s molester was her nanny. Her story and activism attracts media attention which she uses to send a message to young sexual abuse survivors,
“You’re not alone,” Book said.
She explains she wants to bring a “positive face” to an issue people don’t want to discuss.
Adams Street, infamous for its lobbyists’ watering holes and private clubs, was closed for a family block party featuring safety tips.
Also on hand for the event were protestors who said they were with the group Anonymous. They used the event to draw attention to what they say are oppressive crime laws that do not give sexual offenders a second chance after serving their sentence.
“When a person serves time that should be the end of it, no registry, no residency restrictions,” said Derek Logue from Cincinnati. Logue runs the Once Fallen website and said 95 percent of sexual abuse is by people not on a registry list.
“We want a second chance, most people do not reoffend,” Logue said.
The marchers and spectators mostly ignored the four sign-waving protestors.
“What’s an advocate?” Book said at the start of the rally.
“We are!” replied more than two dozen elementary and middle school students.
“What does an advocate do?” Book said.
“They use their voice!” the children responded.
Book uses her annual walk as a lobbying effort of lawmakers. Her cause this year is HB 7001 to allow secret recording of child sexual abuse suspects to be admitted as evidence in court. Earlier in the day the Senate approved the measure sending it to Scott’s desk.