"Walk In My Shoes" Aims to Spread Awareness of Sexual and Domestic Violence
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04/13/10 Kate Bradshaw
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If you drove down Kennedy this morning, you may have noticed a few dozen people walking down the road wearing blue shirts. They were marching to raise awareness of sexual abuse. But the journey for Lauren Book-Lim, the event’s organizer, started a long way back.

Lauren Book-Lim has just reached the halfway point of a 500-mile walk from South Florida to Tallahassee. The Tampa leg started at the Alpha House, a center that houses pregnant women and new mothers who have been victims of domestic and sexual abuse. She says the goal of her journey is to draw attention to the issue.

This is an issue the 25-year-old knows well. Growing up in the affluent South Florida suburb Aventura, Book-Lim was an overachiever, which she says was her way of dealing with daily physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her nanny.

Hillsborough County reportedly has the highest rate of domestic violence in Florida. Carissa Caricato, a spokesperson for the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, in Tampa, says that while getting the issue of sexual and domestic abuse out in the open may help to prevent some incidences, the numbers show that there is much more work to be done.

The numbers get no less alarming at the local level.

Caricato says an estimated two-thirds of incidences of domestic and sexual abuse go unreported. But since that number is extremely tough to calculate, she puts it in more concrete terms.

Most of the marchers were residents of the Alpha House, and many were visibly pregnant. Resident Xiomara Fernandez struggled under the weight of a belly that was thirty seven and a half weeks along. She said she was two centimeters dilated, and about ready to go into labor. But despite the midday heat, she said the cause kept her moving.

Tracy Taylor, a recent transplant from Memphis, was also along for the walk. The boisterous mother of a five-and-a-half-month-old said she also wants to see more awareness of the issue.

Alpha House Development Director Cathi Hardesty said Lauren Book-Lin’s activism against sexual abuse goes hand-in-hand with the Alpha House mission.

There were also some men along for the walk. In his day job, Tim Caddell is a government relations administrator for the City of Pinellas Park. He said he came out because the cause is too important not to acknowledge.

The Tampa leg of Lauren Book-Lim’s “Walk In My Shoes” campaign is ending tonight at six-thirty at USF’s Marshall Student Center. There, Book-Lin and others will take part in a Take Back the Night candlelight vigil to raise awareness for violence against women. On Saturday, the Crisis Center will host another Take Back the Night event in Hyde Park Village, starting at five-thirty.

More WMNF coverage of domestic violence:

Victim Assistance Program - Hillsborough County

Domestic Violence partnership in Pinellas

McCollum announces expansion of InVest program to reduce domestic violence homicides

Call for men: Stop the violence against women

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