Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

We Must Educate Kids about Predators

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

We Must Educate Kids about Predators

Article excerpt

Byline: Lauren Book

The death of any child brings a terrible sadness. But the recent tragic murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in Jacksonville has riveted all of Florida and turned America's attention to the very vulnerability that predators rely upon to commit their heinous acts.

According to documented police reports, Cherish disappeared into the night, apparently kidnapped by sex offender Donald Smith. By 11 the next morning, the little girl's body had been discovered and Smith was taken into custody.

Cherish and her mother were readily targeted by a sex offender whose tactics were completely predatory and predictable.

PREDATORS GROOM PARENTS

Predators often exploit a family's vulnerabilities: lack of transportation, child care, money or a place to stay. Predators also frequently present themselves as friendly, warm and helpful.

Far too often, families fail to recognize these predatory "grooming" tactics until it is too late.

That's why our Lauren's Kids foundation works with experts, law enforcement and Florida's political leaders to champion vital policy changes and produce public education tools and programs about preventing, recognizing, responding to and punishing the sexual abuse of children.

While not all tragedies like Cherish's murder can be prevented, many can. We know that 95 percent of childhood sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness.

In Florida, we have found strong and encouraging bipartisan support for facing and fighting the issue of sexual predators of children.

This is why I am so grateful to Gov. Rick Scott, members of the Florida Cabinet and the vast majority of the Legislature for their individual and collective support of Lauren's Kids' mission to prevent child sexual abuse by educating children, parents and caretakers.

Scott stood by my side on the steps of the Capitol at the conclusion of my 1,500-mile statewide walk of hope this past April to offer unwavering support of our cause. …

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