BROOKSVILLE - Hernando streets were a sea of teal on Friday as participants in the 2014 "Walk in My Shoes" traveled 20 miles across the county to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and assault.
This is the fifth year Lauren Book, an activist, author and survivor of sexual abuse, has walked across Florida but the first time her route came through Hernando County.
About 60 walkers had registered to walk with Book on Friday morning.
Shortly after the walk began, Book looked out at the dozens of walkers traveling on Jefferson Street toward downtown Brooksville and said she loved seeing what the walkers had written on the backs of their T-shirts. The shirts read, "Why I walk," then had blank space for walkers to write personal reason for making the trek.
Some walkers wrote in names; some proclaimed themselves survivors.
"I'm go glad to be here, it's been an incredible journey so far," Book said earlier at a rally before the walk started. Book said she is about halfway through the 1,500-mile, month-long walk from the Florida Keys to Tallahassee. Book said it had been a "tremendous week," citing Gov. Rick Scott's signing of four bills that aim to strengthen the justice system.
The new laws require community supervision of sex offenders and double mandatory minimum sentences for sexually violent predators from 25 to 50 years in prison.
Assistant State Attorney Erin Daly praised Book for the work she has done in Tallahassee.
"I am pleased to be the voice of those children in court ... and protect them from further victimization," said Daly, who prosecutes sex crimes.
"Lauren, you have no idea what an inspiration you are," Daly said, adding she and prosecutors throughout the state use the "Walk in My Shoes Act" every day.
Brooksville Vice-Mayor Frankie Burnett, Hernando County Commissioner Diane Rowden and Blaise Ingoglia, a candidate for Florida State House District 35, also spoke before the walk began.
The walkers started out at the Child Advocacy Center on Kennedy Boulevard in Brooksville and traveled south to Spring Hill Drive, then west across the county to U.S. 19. They walked in the street with a sheriff's office escort.