Monday, October 19, 2009

Preventing Sexual Child Abuse

Studies show that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be molested and, in many cases, children suffer in silence, allowing the abuse to both continue and escalate. When parents and care givers remain silent about abuse, they communicate that silence, that taboo, to their children. It may not be the adult's intended message, but that's the one children receive.

Parents and adults need to be educating children as a means to prevent the worst and to give our victimized children the tools to confront the truth.

Jill Starishevsky has, as Assistant District Attorney in New York City, prosecuted hundreds of sex offenders and dedicated her career to seeking justice for victims of child abuse and sex crime, and she wants to put an end to the silence which perpetuates the sexual abuse of children with her book, My Body Belongs To Me a picture book (illustrated by Sara Muller).

The book, intended to be read to children 3-8 years of age, aims to help educate kids about their rights to their own bodies and how to respond if someone should violate their rights.

The illustrations and language are amazingly nonthreatening, focusing on rights and experience from a child's point of view.

This is my body,
and it belongs just to me.

I have knees and elbows
and lots of parts you see.



Other parts I have
are not in open view.

I call them my private parts,
of course you have them too.



Even when the child is inappropriately touched, the book remains nonthreatening. It's simply a matter of the child telling a parent or a teacher of the experience, the adult believing them and comforting them. It addresses the matter of secret keeping and ends with the child saying, "I know it wasn't my fault and I did nothing wrong. This is my body, and I'm growing big and strong."

Following the story, a list of helpful resources as well as suggestions for the storyteller, to help them move past the story into age and developmentally appropriate discussions with their children.

Sexual abuse is a difficult subject few want to address with their children for fear of letting the boogey man out of the closet. But if the realities of such real world horrors are not addressed -- and addressed as honestly and openly as the danger of crossing streets, properly using the toilet, etc. -- then children will not know what to do when bad things happen to such good little people. (It is my wish that the author next turns her skills to that of educating kids about the issues of physical and emotional child abuse and domestic violence as well.)

Every parent, grandparent, child care giver, should have a copy of My Body Belongs To Me -- and should read it with the children in their lives. The book does no good sitting on a shelf, like a good intention; practice, in this case, makes for prevention.

My Body Belongs To Me can be purchased at Amazon and at the book's official website.

Note: I received my review copy from the author; other than saving it for it's personal inscription, this changes nothing in my review philosophy or policy (as regular readers will note).
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