This weekend, I woke to the following headline in my hometown paper: “Sexual predator gets second chance, now faces 14 new charges.”
You don’t even need to read the story to know how this ends – how very badly and sadly it ends.
It turns out this supposed Romeo & Juliet convict was raping a young girl approximately once a month since being let out of prison, all the time under the watchful and sometimes doubting eyes of his neighbors.
“He seemed nice,” recalled one 11-year-old girl.
THIS IS EXACTLY WHY LAUREN BOOK IS WALKING!
Anyone reading this column knows Book’s story and knows that she is focused – intensely focused – on trying to make sure that these kinds of stories happen less and less often. As she logs literally hundreds of miles, with shin splints, blisters and the kind of sleepless nights that come from extreme exhaustion, Book wants people to know that when a convicted predator is taking girls around on a scooter, buying them ice cream or taking them for a Happy Meal – IT’S OKAY TO TELL. When you see something suspicious, it’s your RESPONSIBILITY to stop it. Her quest is to do more than highlight the very realities of childhood sexual abuse, but to empower children and, yes, adults on the steps they can take to recognize the signs and to take the necessary steps to stop it.
Adults: It’s not just OK to tell, it is our obligation to tell.
As Lauren Book ends her incredible journey – for the sixth time – in Tallahassee this week, I was astonished to learn that a group of protesters is organizing a counter-rally. They think Lauren has gone too far … that registering violent sexual predators like Michael Shepard is not fair … that a chronic child sexual predator like him has rights and, by golly, they want to fight for his rights.
I guess they are forgetting that those seven little girls had rights, too.
The Missouri-based “Women Against Registry” folks have the right to protest against Lauren Book and the hundreds of Lauren’s Kids supporters. Our Constitution protects them and allows them to say what they want, when they want and where they want to say it. They have that right.
Bully for them.
But they also have the right to remain silent.
Seems to this husband and father that they should avail themselves of the latter.