Scott Brown Abuse: Give Children a Voice to Tell

Rape survivor says 95 percent of abuse could be prevented if kids had a voice.

Feb. 17, 2011— -- The predator who molested Sen. Scott Brown at the age of 10 used three powerful words – "I'll Kill You." – which silenced the boy until the revelation of sexual abuse in his new book, "Against All Odds."

Intimidation and threats are classic tactics used by pedophiles and they work for good reason. Children are trusting and vulnerable and have no idea that their voices can make a difference.

"The only thing that you can do to break free of the chains is to tell, to shed light in the dark places," said Lauren Book, a child rape survivor and activist. "It's OK to tell and it's one of the mantras I live by."

Book, 26, said Brown's disclosure is "an important and courageous move on his part that could inspire others to share their own stories."

"I know that healing begins by telling someone what happened to you," she said.

The Massachusetts Republican, who won the long-time seat of the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, described the abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of a counselor at a religious camp on Cape Cod.

The 51-year-old said in an interview that will air on "60 Minutes" Sunday night that he was threatened with violence if he told anyone.

"He said, 'If you tell anybody, I'll kill you,'' said Brown, who says he was also physically abused by his stepfathers. "I will make sure that no one believes you."

Now, Book is speaking out and teaching children to have a stronger voice when a relationship feels uncomfortable.

For six years, Book was tortured by the woman she both feared and trusted -- her nanny. Waldina Flores ruled the little girl's life, alternately showering her with affection and then beating and raping her.

"When I was being beaten, I thought it was my fault," said Book. 'I thought I was doing something to deserve it. People go through that all the time."

With the help of her father, a prominent Florida attorney and lobbyist, Book launched a school curriculum that helps give children a stronger voice to prevent abuse.

Her new memoir, "It's OK to Tell: A Story of Hope and Recovery", which chronicles her abuse, hits bookstores March 8. Since then they have launched a successful legislative campaign against predators.

Book will also appear on The Oprah Network's "Our America With Lisa Ling" to discuss her prevention programs, "Lauren's Kids," including an interactive online tool to encourage conversations between parents and children about making "safer and smarter" choices.

Rape and Beatings Began at Age 11

Book's molestation began when she was 11. Angry that she was chewing gum, the woman whom the little girl affectionately called "Waldy" stuck her tongue in the little girl's mouth to remove it.

The abuse escalated from there, whenever the little girl did not cooperate.

"She used objects or hands or whatever she could get," Book said. "She pushed me down the stairs. And at one point she defecated on me."

In 2002, at age 17, Book broke away by telling her counselor, and in turn her parents. Flores was ultimately sentenced to 25 years for her sex crimes. But the scars remained -- Book developed anorexia and her brief marriage, to the boyfriend who helped her reveal her dark secret, fell apart.

"Sexual abuse is tied to self-mutilation and drug and alcohol abuse," said Book. "For me, personally, I burned my skin. I wore a heating pad on my stomach to the point that it was discolored and disfiguring. We see things like that time and time again."

Without counseling, a phenomenon known as revictimization can occur, according to Book. Survivors can make themselves more vulnerable to additional assaults, beatings or verbal abuse.

"You cannot identify those patterns and see that they are wrong," she said.

The consequences of not telling are devastating. Survivors of sexual abuse are four times more likely than others to consider suicide, according to the Rape, Assault, Incest National Network (RAINN). And survivors are four times more likely than others to consider suicide.

Just last month, Princeton doctoral student Bill Zeller, a promising computer programmer, killed himself after being haunted by childhood rapes.

The 27-year-old left a 4,000-word suicide note disclosing the "darkness" that stalked him. It was the first friends and family had ever been aware of the abuse.

In his shocking note, Zeller described an "inconsolable rage," and said programming had been an appealing career because "I was able to keep the darkness at bay for a few hours at a time."

"My first memories as a child are of being raped, repeatedly," he wrote. "This has affected every aspect of my life."

"We hear every day on our sexual assault hotline that this is the first time they have talked about this," said Jennifer Wilson Marsh, director of RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotlines. "When someone is able to speak or type aloud or share the emotional narrative relating to the trauma, there is some distance and it takes it out of the darkness and into the light."

"It's less scary and less shameful and puts those feelings into perspective because it's so overwhelming," she said.

An estimated 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to RAINN. Also, 15 percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age of 12.

As in both the Brown and Book cases, 90 percent of all survivors know their attacker.

"It's so common, but nobody talks about being sexually abused," said Book. "They don't get the counseling or help they need to heal. Many have been dealing with it for so long they are afraid to get help. That's why it's so important and why we talk about getting the help you need."

Education Can Give Children a Voice

"I think 95 percent of it is preventable through education and awareness," she said.

Book's school curriculum is offered in grades K to 5 throughout schools in her home state of Florida.

"We teach children that their bodies belong to them," she said. "Just because a family member says, 'Give me a hug,' doesn't mean they have power over you. It's your body and so it's important to tell and paramount to our movement and what we do. You are not damaged goods."

In addition to providing a 24-hour crisis hotline and speaking engagements nationwide, her organization provides more than 4.5 million educational and awareness materials statewide.

The ultimate goal is to raise funds for the creation of a crisis center for children and families coping with the aftermath of sexual abuse.

"I survived, I'm ok... because it's always ok to tell," said Book.

In Brown's case, he said he didn't tell his mother about the abuse at the time, and his autobiography held some revelations his family had never heard before.

In the book, he describes having to protect his mother from a string of violent husbands. Later, he said he visited the house where the abuse took place.

"I actually called the realtor and went in and took the tour and relived kind of where everything was . . . to make sure I wasn't . . . dreaming,'' Brown told "60 Minutes." "As I left, I said, 'Man, I wish I had the money. I'd just buy this thing and burn it down.'''.

If you've been a victim of sexual abuse, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE or 800-656-4673.