Sen. Lauren Book, one of the Legislature's most credible spokeswomen on what a victim of sexual misconduct experiences when she finally decides to go public submitted a Senate Rules complaint Tuesday against Sen. Jack Latvala.
It's a powerful knife in the heart of the Clearwater Republican's hopes to clear his name as a sexual predator. It could give courage to others of the six women who reported Latvala stories anonymously to come forward and identify themselves.
Book, D-Plantation, was sexually abused and tortured by a nanny at age 11, and since 2007 has been leader of a crusade against the sexual abuse of children, appealing to them not to stay silent but to tell somebody.
Book, 32 and still in her first Senate term, is the daughter of powerful lobbyist Ron Book. Over the years the two Books have together persuaded the Legislature to contribute millions of dollars to the crusade. Lauren's Kids is by far the Legislature's favorite charitable depository.
The young senator can play a key role in the outcome of Latvala's case.
This is the statement Book issued Tuesday:
"Today, I filed a formal complaint with Senate Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto regarding Senator Latvala’s conduct in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against him. This was a difficult decision, as I have truly admired and respected Senator Latvala for many years. However, after great thought and deliberation, I knew this was the right thing to do for myself, for Ms. (Rachel) Perrin Rogers, and for all others who may wish to come forward on this or other such grounds. While the Senator is entitled to a fair hearing and has a right to defend himself during the normal course of the investigation, it is not ever ok to make attempts to “out” a complainant, or to publicly attack or shame them with character assassination –- things Senator Latvala has unfortunately and clearly done through various media outlets.
"This behavior is unbecoming of a sitting Senator, unfair to Ms. Perrin Rogers, and discouraging to others who may have wished to come forward and may not now do so for fear that “they too” will be publicly shamed, or even jeopardize their employment. As Senators, we wanted to bring about systemic change as a result of the complaints and discussion that has taken place on how we treat women in and outside of the process. As leaders, we must lead by example, but what has happened here is not bringing about change at all. As such, I submitted this complaint under Senate Rule 1.43 - Violations; Investigations, Penalties, asserting specific violations under Senate Rules 1.38 and 1.35 related to Senator Latvala’s conduct. The precedent we set today will live on, and we must –- each and every one of us -– look inside ourselves and find the courage to “be brave,” as Senator Benacquisto and I previously urged victims, and do what is right.
"As uncomfortable as all this may be for myself and my colleagues, I know it pales in comparison to what victims of sexual misconduct endure when they choose to come forward with a report. While it will never be easy to come forward, we must always make it safe to tell, and to do all we can to protect those who may have been victimized. The investigation will yield truth into the matter at hand, but in the meantime, we must hold ourselves, and the process, to the highest ethical standard and refuse to allow the kind of behavior and mistreatment we have seen in the wake of the allegations."
In an Oct. 30 joint statement, Book and Benacquisto (also a rape victim) vowed to stand with victims: “As long as we are here, you will be heard, and we will do all that we can to help. We are your allies because, sadly, we can both say #MeToo.”
By her statement Tuesday, Book is showing, not just telling.
I said in a Dec. 1 column Florida women need their state senators to act like leaders if the toxic culture in state government is going to change, if any of the other women who told their Latvala stories to Politico are going to come forward.
Book, with such a powerful story of her own to tell, clearly has done that. She has proclaimed herself a leader. She deserves our admiration and thanks.