In the year 2000, there were 879,000 substantiated reports of child abuse in the United States alone. 10% of those were cases of sexual abuse. (You can see the statistics here: http://www.prevent-abuse-now.com/stats.htm)
And those are just the kids who told. There are many who never do.
When Jill Starishevsky contacted me about her new book, My Body Belongs to Me, I was intrigued. As a mom, it’s not easy to bring up these tough topics with my kids. And I have to say, after reading the book with my kids, I’m impressed.
My Body Belongs to Me is short, simple, and easy enough for a preschooler to understand. Written for children ages 3-10, it explains in a straightforward and appropriate way what sexual abuse is, and how children can protect themselves. (In the story, a girl is touched inappropriately by a family friend, and she yells and tells her parents right away.)
Incidentally, one of my boys commented, “Well, you can’t always yell.” I asked why not, and he said, “You’re not allowed to yell at school.” We’ve had this conversation before, but we needed to have it again. The you-can-break-all-the-rules-to-protect-yourself conversation. You can yell, scream, kick, hit—whatever you need to do to get away from someone who is trying to hurt you, even if that person is a grown up that you’ve been told to obey.
The author of the book, Jill Starishevsky, is a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City. The case of a 9-year old girl who had been raped by her stepfather over a three-year period of time compelled her to write this book. Jill writes:
“One day, the girl saw an episode of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ about children who were physically abused. The episode, ‘Tortured Children,’ empowered the girl with this simple message: If you are being abused, tell your parents. If you can’t tell your parents, go to school and tell your teacher. The girl got the message and the very next day went to school and told her teacher. I prosecuted the case for the District Attorney’s office. The defendant was convicted and is now serving a lengthy prison sentence.”
I don’t know about you, but thinking about a child enduring this kind of nightmare rips me up. I want to be the kind of adult that children can trust—my own kids and the other kids who are in our lives.
So parents? Talk to your kids about the tough stuff. Open the lines of communication and keep them open. Listen well. Our children need us.
And now I’d like to give away this book that Jill so graciously sent me. So leave me a comment and on June 29, I’ll pick a winner at random!
And if you’d like to order a copy of Jill’s book, click here.