Lauren Book, founder of the sexual abuse advocacy group Lauren’s Kids, delivered the keynote address on May 28 at the Dutch National Rapporteur’s Symposium on Sexual Violence Against Children in The Hague, Netherlands.
Book’s speech corresponded with the release of the Netherlands’ first-ever national study on child sexual abuse.
According to the report, as many as 1 in 3 Dutch children are victims of sexual violence, while most do not disclose their abuse; those that do are discouraged from pressing charges. Often the adults who offend against children receive punishments ranging from community service to light prison sentences.
As the opening speaker at last week’s symposium, Book addressed nearly 500 government officials, advocates, experts, survivors and community members, urging them to use the study to help prevent abuse, track offenders and better serve survivors.
“Now is the time to act, to shine light where there was once darkness,” Book said. “To protect those most innocent among us.”
For six years, Book was a target of childhood abuse at the hands of a nanny in South Florida. Since then, she turned her experiences into an educational movement to help prevent child sexual abuse. Book believes that education can stop as much as 95 percent of abuse, launching Lauren’s Kids in December 2007 to help victims “shine a light in dark places” and “shed the shame.”
Judge Corinne Dettmeijer, the Dutch National Rapporteur, invited Book after seeing her speak at the Crime Stoppers International Conference in Barbados last year. She then asked Book to bring her story to The Hague to help influence policy change.
The Rapporteur’s responsibility is to report independently to the Dutch government on the extent of sexual violence against children in the Netherlands, as well as suggesting ways to pursue government policy to address the nationwide problem.