Sexual crimes against our children are epidemic in this country and do not take a break for the Holidays. Ignoring the issue will not make it go away. The following reviews are on books written to educate the younger child about sexual abuse.
The content of the books reviewed range from the simple to a complete children’s guide. Some of the books share the importance of children knowing the proper terms for their body parts. This is vital if a child is to be able to tell what happened to them; cute nicknames for private body parts often prevent adults from understanding a child is saying they have experienced inappropriate contact. I also appreciate the mention of parents not forcing their child to hug or kiss a relative or adult when the child does not want to do so. This teaches a child to take ownership of their body.
By having this information available, we offer a lifeline that may save the lives, minds and emotional stability of our children. These books and others like them need to be in every elementary school and public library and made accessible to all children.
Children do not make up stories about abuse. To the contrary; fear and shame is instilled in these young victims and they usually do not tell, even when questioned. Unfortunately, some families want this abuse kept hidden and threaten already victimized children into silence. As difficult as it is to comprehend some Mother/Parent figures put their own adult relationships, social standing, finances, and other concerns before that of their own child. Therefore, these children need to have access to information that let them know what is happening is wrong, let them know to tell and continue telling until they are believed and let them know they are not alone,
Please do not assume poverty is the face of sexual crimes against our children. In my humble opinion, it is prevalent in more financially stable families; we just do not see the abuse reported, as it should. The more prominent or successful a person, the more difficult it is for us to see that person as an abuser. We erroneously equate job and financial stability with mental stability and morality; the job may be the only stable aspect of the abuser or their protector’s life. Remember, females can and are abusers too.
I cannot mention enough the degree to which some Mother/Parent figures will go to hide sexual crimes against their own child; including ongoing attempts to discredit anyone trying to help the child. These parent figures will do and say anything in their efforts to turn attention away from their own crimes or the crime they are trying to keep hidden and point the finger at an innocent person. For example; creating false police reports to make a person appear unstable, creating a maelstrom of gossip and lies to damage a person’s reputation and reliability, lying about the outcome of a CPS investigation, forging documents, and countering the true allegations by the child with false accusations against an adult trying to help the child.
In order to cover their own horrible deeds against their child, the Mother/Parent figures will force the child to recant their true allegations; force the child to tell lies, traumatize the child into silence, isolate them away from trusted adults and institutions, and isolate the child to those very people actively involved in the abuse. Some parents manipulate the system, friends, family, the police and even counselors with their well-crafted lies. You can only hope when their house of cards falls down the child is still alive.
With the knowledge, not all families work to help the child, I would like to see included for review books directed at children whose own parents are abusing them. As well, books addressing those children whose parent figures know of abuse, silence the child, and suppress the outcries. These young victims need books that reach out to them and let them know what to do, whom to turn to and the importance of continuing to tell until they are believed. If you know of any books, please submit their titles to the blog site for review.
Something Happened and I’m Scared To Tell by Patricia Kehoe Ph.D
Ages as young as 3-years-old.
Written in simple terms with two-tone imaging, a young child interacts with an imaginary Lion who befriends him.
The lion encourages the child to speak out about the sexual abuse happening to him. This book addresses the importance of children knowing the proper terms for their body parts so they can make it clear what happened to them when they do tell.
The book also addresses the internal fears a child carries about what people will think of them if they tell; shame. The story also stresses the importance of a child telling and telling and telling until someone believes him or her.
Most importantly, it lets the child know they are not at fault and helps to untangle the confusion a child goes through when they are abused by someone they know and trust.
This is a good first book to read with the child.
I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping private parts private by Zack and Kimberly King
Written with the help of a young child, this book was a therapeutic tool during his own journey through healing and recovery.
The book discusses appropriate behaviors, how to deal with inappropriate behaviors, when and where to go for help, what to do if the people you turn to are not listening, dealing with feelings of guilt and shame and other topics.
There is good discussion on “green flags” which are rewards or treats and “red flags,” which are bribes, threats, secrets, warning signs and behaviors from those wanting to do inappropriate behavior. I do appreciate that it mentions threats against the child if they tell. As children too often, keep silent out of fear, shame and more.
The afterword by the child’s Mother is an honest assessment of what occurred, how she later realized her approach in making her children aware had been too general, and her surprise that the source of the sexual advancements were from a family they had known for years.
I applaud the Mother for her open and frank revelations and for creating a book that turns a negative event into a way to help other young children.
This is a book that you will want to read in stages with your younger child and is a good resource book for older children.
My Body Belongs To Me by Jill Starishevsky
Ages as young as 3-years-old
This short story is set in rhyming verse.
The main message of this book is to let children know it is important to tell right away if someone touches or does something to them in their “private” area. The reason for this is to stop the abuse before it continues and turns into a pattern that leads to silence, shame and more occurrences and pain.
The child in this book is fortunate enough to have a healthy parenting system that listens and is supportive. However, it does make mention of going to a teacher if the child cannot tell their parents.
This is a good introductory book about the importance of telling. For those seeking additional information on sexual abuse against children there are resources at the back of the book
Your Body Belongs To You by Cornelia Spelman
This is a very simply written book and is colorfully illustrated.
The overall message is the child’s body is their own and they choose when they are hugged or kissed; it empowers the child to say, “No.” When we give children ownership of their body, we give them power to prevent sexual abuse.
Too often well-meaning adults force a child to give a hug to an aunt or cousin, unwittingly giving the child the message they must let all adults touch and hug them when the adults want. This book gives the child the right to know they can make that decision for themselves.
The book also educates the child about when private parts should and should not be touched, for example, when a parent is bathing the child or a Doctor is examining them at the office.
Another good first book.
My Body Is Private by Linda Walvoord Girard
This is a more detailed book for a more mature child. If possible, you might want to read with the child in case they have questions.
In this book, the daughter has a discussion with her Mother, which sets the stage for boundary setting; importantly the Mother gives her daughter ownership of her own body and her boundaries.
The book lets a child know that anything that makes the child uncomfortable or is not fun needs to stop even if the other person does not want to stop. When we give children knowledge, and rights to determine when they can be held or touched we give them power to prevent sexual abuse.
Addressing first different things that are private, one’s mail, one’s book, one’s time the book then moves on to address body parts, uses the proper names for those parts and then labels those areas as private. Then the discussion explains when it is ok to be touched in the private areas, as in a baby needing a diaper changed or a visit to the doctor.
Knowing the proper terms for ones body and a child knowing they have a right to set their own boundaries is important. Unfortunately, not all parents respect this right. It is sometimes the responsibility of another family member, friend or educator to help that child know by pointing the way to books like this.
Dear Corinne, Tel Somebody! Love, Annie: A Book About Secrets by Mari Evans
This book hit close to home and had the most impact upon me. Written as a series of letters from a young child to her best friend, whose change in behavior and avoidance cause concern; Annie, uses her letter writing to reach her friend, Corinne, discover what is wrong and recover their friendship.
As Annie witnesses the change in her best friend, who is no longer speaking to her, wise Annie does not take Corinne’s attitude as a personal affront. Instead, she perseveres with care and love and does whatever it takes to understand the change in her best friend.
Unanswered letter after unanswered letter Annie persists in her endeavors to reach her friend, waiting patiently for a response. During the book, Annie begins to suspect what has happened and through her letters, she lets her friend know it is not her fault, encourages her to be brave, to tell, and lets Corinne know she is not alone. Most importantly, she lets Corrine know that she, Annie, will be there for her and remain her friend.
I strongly recommend you read this book. I will leave it to you to read to the end and discover for yourself the process and ending. I wish every sexually abused child could have an Annie in their life, and have access to this book.
I recommend you buy several copies of this book, share it with as many people as possible, buy a copy for your local elementary school and have them put it in their library. There is a process where you can have the book reviewed and admitted to the library; be prepared to advocate for this book. This should be available to all children and not hidden in a counselor’s collection. Honestly, the parents of children with issues such as this are not likely to allow their children to go to the school counselor, so publicly circulated is their best option for accessing this material and setting themselves free.
Audrey E. Campbell, PhD.,
“Corinne’s silence, agony, and personality change testify to the horrible secret, the terrible pain; the masking; the hiding; and the resignation into shame…What can we do to help children like Corinne? What can we do to stop this? What can we do to protect our children? Parents and professionals need to watch and listen so much more diligently. And, even after we “hear”, so many of us tend to stand immobile (paralyzed or like accomplices.) After the listening and the hugs, parents and professionals must report, and help remove and support the child, and probably testify. Our failure to punish the perpetrators of these immoral, psychological and illegal acts becomes yet another staggering blow for the precious child who has learned that giants can crash into their loves, minds, bodies, space, and souls and still (unfortunately for the abused child) seem to live “happily-ever-after. “