When Lauren Book, 29-year-old founder of the sexual-abuse prevention group Lauren’s Kids, crosses the finish line of her organization’s 1500-mile “Walk in My Shoes” charity event in Tallahassee, Florida on April 22, the crowd will applaud her, call her an angel and cry real tears of support for Book’s outspoken activism to protect children from sexual abuse – 95% of which could, as Book’s organization teaches, be prevented by education and vigilance.
Thus the presence of a ‘peaceful protest’ at that same finish line is likely to shock some and confound others.
“We have great respect for the educational aims of Lauren’s Kids,” Vicki Henry, president of Women Against Registry (WAR) and spokesperson for the ad-hoc coalition of sex-law reform organizations who have members participating in the protest, explained. “Really, in this regard we would like to be walking with them, showing support.”
In response to a recent statement by Book, that she wished critics “would speak directly to me so I can show them the amazing work we are doing on behalf of children,” Henry has attempted to reach-out to Book and her organization’s Executive Director, Ms. Van Susteren, in hopes of meeting to discuss the annihilating effect that Florida’s “Scorched Earth Policy” — which is supported by Book — has on the children of registrant families.
Realistically, Henry sees this expression of solidarity as unlikely to happen because many of the groups that she represents have members, supporters and organizational leaders who are former offenders and are listed on the sex offender registry.
“But these folks are also mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children and parents who, at some time in their life, did something stupid or immoral but never hurt anyone and yet ended branded with a sex-crime,” Henry continued. “Also because some of our constituents did commit acts which violate sensibility, were rightly convicted of a repugnant crime, served years in prison and more on probation, got therapy, earned family and community support, and continue to work diligently every day to undo all harm done.
“All of whom, we hope and pray, should be welcome supporters of the skyrocketing call to educate legislators, the media, and the general public about ‘how to’ prevent child sexual abuse. But,” Henry summarized, “because of the broad-brush which errantly portrays all who are registered citizens as incurable, evil beings, our constituents, their husbands and wives, sons and daughters, fathers, mothers and friends, are scorned, shunned and even have cause to fear for their lives when attending any public event.
“And this deadly stigma is fueled by the ‘scorched earth’ sex-offender laws and regulations that have been enacted by Florida legislators since the Book’s began her advocacy campaign six years ago… laws that are supposed to protect everyone… are actually damaging everyone, making all of us less safe.
“Yes… about 5% of those on the sex offender registry are predatory, repeat offenders who must be kept under close observation and possibly segregated from free society for the rest of their lives,” Henry affirmed. “But the other 95% of those on the registry are, respectfully, FORMER sexual offenders who are struggling just like the rest of us to find a place of acceptance in our community and fill a role that brings value to our family and friends.
“This is why we stand in solidarity with all those who support laws that do actually protect children by and through the proactive education of adults about how to prevent sexual abuse. But we are duty bound to protest these laws of which so many seem so proud of, that are, according to a growing majority of notable law enforcement and psychology experts nationwide, wasting millions upon millions of dollars in public resource to enforce laws that make society a much more dangerous place and fail to protect any child from harm.”
For more information, contact Vicki Henry, President, 202-630-0345 or visit http://www.womenagainstregistry.org.