Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Local teacher takes part in walk for child sexual abuse

It began when she was just a little girl.

Sexual abuse victim Daliana Goins recalls the horror she lived with for many years, until she was finally was ready to share the story of how she was molested with her mother.

By this time, she was 22 years old.

Now approaching middle age, with a family of her own, Goins is a survivor. Even more importantly, she's doing everything she can, in her capacity as a counselor at Poinciana Elementary School to spare other youngsters the theft of their childhoods at the hands of sexual predators.

Coming to terms with what happened to her as a youngster has been a long road for Daliana, but on Sunday, the South Florida-native is about to embark on an even more remarkable journey. Early that day, she'll set off from the Southernmost Point, alongside fellow sexual abuse survivor Lauren Book, and walk the 21 miles to Cudjoe Key with her head held high, and an indominatable spirit in her heart.

"Since I signed up to be the featured walker in the Lower Keys, I've already had six women come up to me and say 'this happened to me, too,'" said Goins, who found out about Book's annual walks from the Keys to Tallahassee through the "Safer, Smarter Kids" curriculum she has been teaching to kindergartners, and the other school counselors she instructs at the district level. "It's really huge to be able to share the same experiences with other, and being empowered by it. We're able to tell each other, 'It's O.K. to talk about it, and we're going to make it better.'"

By now, Book's story is a familiar one to Floridians. For six years, when she was a little girl, Book endured physical and sexual abuse from a family employee, until she finally felt able to tell her story to a therapist who then called her parents.

Since then Book has devoted her life to calling attention to the horrors of child sexual abuse, and helping to influence state legislation with the help of her father, a well-known Tallahassee lawyer and lobbyist.

Every year for the past five years, Book has set out from the Southernmost City on a 1,500 mile "Walk in My Shoes" journey across the state, to the steps of the Capitol, where she holds a "Rally in Tally" to speak up for victims of a scourge that affects one in three little girls, and one in five little boys.

Book has also worked to develop the aforementioned curriculum which next year will be extended to first- through third-graders, thanks to financial assistance from the state.

This year, for the first time, Book and her colleagues at the 501 (c)(3) non-profit Lauren's Kids Foundation, have undertaken to invite members of the communities she walks through, to become "featured walkers," such as Goins.

"When I heard about the 'Rally in Tally' I decided, hey, this is Key West. We're the starting point for the walks. We should have a title for the kick-off that reflects this community, and the energy we put into fundraisers, and awareness raising," Goins said. "I decided that I was going to call it the 'Hope Fest in Key West.'"

Claire VanSusteren, who works for Lauren's Kids, is delighted by the idea.

"It sounds fantastic," she said. "And it really fits in with what we're doing. Lauren doesn't just pass through the communities, she takes the time to talk to sexual abuse survivors, and lawmakers, and other people. She keeps a journal of these meetings, and makes what she's heard a part of her presentation at the Rally in Tally. The human impact of the walk is really important."

Book too, is thrilled to be sharing the open road with such an enthusiastic fellow traveler.

"When I started the walk in 2010, it was really a symbol of my own healing journey; step by step, day by day, transitioning from a victim to a survivor," Book said. "Five years later, it's not just my journey. I am humbled to be walking with and for thousands of other survivors in Florida - survivors like Daliana - bringing hope, healing and recovery to communities across the state."

For Goins, the most inspiring part of the walk has already begun.

"I'm just really happy that I'm seeing so much support from my friends and co-workers, who are going to turn out for the kick-off at the Southernmost Point," Goins said. "My son, daughter, and husband are going to walk with me as well. And once we reach Baby's Coffee, my former colleagues and friends from the Sugarloaf School are going to meet up with me and walk a ways. Some of them have said they're going to walk the full 21 miles.

"The thing about child sexual abuse is that it thrives in the shadows," Goins went out. "I want to make sure that kids out there who are going through this understand that what's happening to them isn't their fault. And that it's O.K. to talk to a trusted adult about it."

Following the kick-off, pit stops and presentations are scheduled to take place at the BB&T building, the Publix supermarket in the Overseas Market, and other locations up the Keys.

For complete information on the "Walk in My Shoes," visit laurenskids.org/2014 walk

tschmida@keysnews.com

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