Monday, June 22, 2009

childhood sexual abuse

Not a fun topic, I know, but one we as parents need to talk about. We need to talk about it with eachother and we need to talk about it with our children.

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:

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.


hellolittlepeepers said...

lets see if I can win another book!

Good post! After working with people who have had to deal with the tough stuff, I can't emphasis the importance of giving your children the tools they need to know what sexual abuse is and how to tell. I have often heard, "I just thought it was normal, that everybody did this at home."

Unknown said...

Thank you, Llama Momma, for this post. I am part of a small online community, a number of whose members experienced sexual abuse in childhood. All but one experienced abuse at the hands of a family member, immediate or extended.

The book you recommend looks like a good one for my son. I plan to buy a copy, and to recommend it to my friends.

Anonymous said...

Great post.This is an ongoing conversation we need to have with our kids, at every age. I am still having this open dialogue with my teen son and preteen son as they spend more and more time with coaches, teachers, band dirctors, etc. Thanks for reminding us how important these conversations are.

Lisa said...

This is ALWAYS a timely topic. I recently heard a conservative estimate that 1 in 6 men had an unwanted sexual experience. Isn't that crazy? 1 in 6. talk. talk alot.

K said...

I'm glad there are books on this topic for very young kids. Another one is by Shannon Riggs "Not in Room 204". If I win this book I'll be giving it to my sister, a kindergarten teacher who has had students in the past who could relate to the book's topic.

Sharon said...

Nice job, Llamamama! It's always difficult to address the tough topics whether in conversation or in print. I did not know you are blogging! I'll be sure to keep checking back...

Keri Wyatt Kent said...

Such an important topic. it's so important to have these kinds of conversations with our kids, even when it's a bit uncomfortable for us as parents.
Writer Mary DeMuth has written a lot about this topic, as she is a sexual abuse survivor. Her novel "Watching Tree Limbs" is very good and deals with this topic.

Leslie said...

We have a book called "Your Body Belongs To You" that we started reading with Julia at a very young age. It just explains where your private parts are (the areas your bathing suit covers), that no one should touch them and that you should always tell your parents or an adult you trust if someone does. It's a very simple book, which was perfect when she was two. It sounds like this one is a little more detailed.

I don't think it's ever too soon to start taking about this with kids.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the helpful post. I have been wondering how to approach some of these issues with my boys, and this books sounds likes good way to start!


megs @ whadusay said...

Sounds like a very important book - I'd love to win!

Mandy said...

Sad we even have to have those conversations wwith our kids. This sounds like a great book. I'd love to win!