Lauren Book went into the visiting area of the state center that holds the state's most dangerous sexual offenders, walked up to one of the patients, shook his hand and thanked him for meeting with her.
It wasn't easy.
Book is a childhood sexual abuse survivor turned victim advocate. She still deals with the scars from the years of rape and abuse suffered at the hands of her nanny, and in the 12 years since has heard stories from countless victims. But in her mission to prevent abuse, she wanted to learn whatever she could from the resident.
"As I was preparing to come here, I did have this sense that I'm doing something really scary here," Book said after Saturday afternoon's visit. "Dad did not want me to come. He didn't want me to do this, and it's OK, because he's scared and he's nervous. The reality of this place is scary."
The Florida Civil Commitment Center is in the middle of the state, miles from anywhere but citrus fields. It houses 655 men convicted of sex crimes and involuntarily committed after finishing their prison sentences because they were deemed too dangerous. The center provides treatment to help the men return to society without reoffending. It takes years, and some will never be released. Others refuse treatment.
Book, 28, wanted to learn more about offenders in hopes of using that knowledge for prevention. She runs Lauren's Kids, a center that helps victims and seeks to prevent future abuse. She stopped at the center while on a 1,500-mile walk across Florida called "Walk In My Shoes" to raise awareness.