If that old adage that "the longest journey begins with a single step" is true, than sexual abuse survivor Lauren Book is well on the way to completing her trip.
Book's journey is a personal odyssey of healing.
From the time she was 11, the Aventura native was sexually molested and otherwise physically abused by a nanny for over six years.
She has not let the experience defeat her, however.
On Tuesday morning, Book laced up her trusty Brooks running shoes, paused for a photo op at the Southernmost Point, and began walking -- to Tallahassee.
Beginning in 2010, Book has undertaken an annual walk across Florida to the state capitol to raise awareness about child sexual abuse and help lobby for specific legislation.
Book is also the founder of the Lauren's Kids nonprofit and the author of a memoir, "It's OK to Tell: A Story of Hope and Recovery."
This year's Walk in My Shoes event will see Book criss-crossing the state, walking 1,500 miles to the capitol steps, where a "Rally in Tally" will stress Book's 2013 legislative priorities.
"We're trying to create a standardized abuse prevention curriculum that will reach every child in the state in grades one through five," said Book, who previously championed a similar, successful initiative for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. "Protecting our kids is just as important as teaching them their ABC's and 123's. And 95 percent of sexual abuse is preventable through education."
Book, whose father is a well-known attorney and lobbyist, is also pushing for passage of HB 7031, which would extend the "victimless prosecution" option -- currently available to victims 11 years old and younger -- to children as old as 16.
"Basically, information gathered during an interview at a child advocacy center by a child protective team member or an investigator could be used in court so that the victim wouldn't need to testify on the stand," Book explained.
Should the bill pass, it will be yet another legislative feather in Book's cap.
She has devoted her life to working with her foundation to further the cause of child sex abuse victims, and has advocated for a number of legislative initiatives over the years, including HB 525, which, in 2010, eliminated the statute of limitations for both civil and criminal prosecutions for crimes related to sexual assault committed against children under 16.
Last year, Book promoted HB 1355, which requires anyone with knowledge of abuse of children to call the Florida Department of Children and Families' (DCF) hotline, at 1-800-962-2873. That law became effective in October.
Lauren's Kids has also partnered with DCF to launch the Don't Miss the Signs campaign, an attempt to educate adults on the warning signs of child abuse, and the process of making a report.
Book said she got the idea for the walks while healing from her own experience.
"It was really important to me to come up with a way to meet other individuals, and find out how they're helping themselves, and where they go for help," Book said. "I figured that the best way was to hit the road and walk, and talk with people. Over the years it really has helped make a difference. I see people now that I met on my first walk who didn't know where to turn back then, and now they're doing better, maybe in stable relationships. It's all about helping survivors to be survivors."
On Tuesday, Book held a press conference and rally at the Key West Publix, where she promoted Walk in My Shoes.
Among the attendees was Monroe County State Attorney Catherine Vogel.
"We really appreciate all the work done by victim's advocates, including Lauren Book," Vogel said. "This is a really amazing thing that she's doing."
Book's walk across the state will take in 55 events in 42 days, including a stop 10 a.m. today at Christina's Courage, 1663 Dunlap Drive in Key West, where she will connect with survivors at the sexual assault treatment center.
To donate to Book's cause, or more information, visit www.laurenskids.org.