Every child deserves a safe, happy and healthy childhood. This includes the carefree innocence that comes with feeling secure, protected and loved. Although this is our hope for each and every child, the reality is that there are millions of children who do not experience the childhood they deserve. In fact, I was one of the children stripped of my childhood at the hands of someone my family and I trusted, my female nanny. I wish I could say my experiences are rare, but the truth is my story is similar to the stories of so many other children.
Although my life was colored by the experiences I had as a young girl, I have made it a point to choose that color and to work every day to help make the world a safer place for children. The terrible reality is that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys in the United States are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays. Like many of these children, I did not know how to recognize the unsafe situation I was in or the traps my abuser was setting. By the time my abuse began, the fear, shame and blame I felt was overwhelming, causing me to suffer in silence for six years. Additionally, my friends and family did not recognize the signs. Armed with the knowledge that 95 percent of child sexual abuse can be prevented through education and awareness, I decided to use my story to help others in similar situations. In 2007, I started the Lauren’s Kids foundation, a nonprofit organization based in South Florida that seeks to prevent abuse and help survivors heal.
Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, in any neighborhood, religion or church group, racial or ethnic group, and among the rich, the poor and everywhere in between. Knowing this, child safety and abuse prevention education is needed in each and every community to give children, parents and teachers the resources and knowledge base to protect children.
Here are a few safety tips for you and your child:
As a former educator, I know that when we teach children that it is always OK to tell if something or someone is making them feel scared, confused or icky, we provide them with a very necessary tool to protect themselves. In 2012, Lauren’s Kids launched the Safer, Smarter Kids abuse prevention curriculum. This curriculum teaches children what to do if they feel like something is not quite right or if they believe they are in an unsafe situation.
Safer, Smarter Kids consists of age-appropriate lessons for children ranging from Pre-K to grade three with fourth and fifth grade, middle and high school installments becoming available in the 2015-2016 school year. If your child’s teacher is not currently teaching this curriculum, please encourage them to visit SaferSmarterKids.org to request their curriculum today. In the State of Florida the Safer, Smarter Kids curriculum is available at no cost to teachers of state-funded schools and VPK programs.
Through the Lauren’s Kids foundation, I work each and every day to prevent child sexual abuse and help survivors heal through advocacy, awareness and education. Each March and April, I lead a 1,500-mile “Walk in My Shoes” walk across the state of Florida, beginning at the Southernmost Point of the U.S. in Key West, walking north and criss-crossing from coast to coast, community to community until I reach the steps of the Historic Capitol in Tallahassee on April 22. I walk to educate communities, advocate for legislative change to better protect children and support survivors and to create a safer tomorrow for families living in the Sunshine State. To learn more, visit LaurensKids.org.
There are many different definitions of "parent" and a diversity of perspectives on parenting. One thing remains... good parenting is rooted deeply in love. This is our attempt to capture real stories from real people.