Empowering children: A review of books addressing sexual abuse

I know that as one of the two staff members who works to implement our sexual abuse prevention policy (Safe Sanctuaries) that I have an enormous and difficult task. We have a good policy. We train, screen, and keep in regular contact with teachers. I also know that one additional way to protect children is by empowering them and their families.

A few weeks ago I purchased several books that are available for parents to check out. These are books that help children to learn boundaries, appreciate the sacredness and goodness of their bodies, and to open up a safe space for dialogue with caregivers. My hope is that these books will be an additional defense as we protect children against the sexual abuse.

Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Maude Spelman.
We’ve owned this book for a long time and it’s what we use to begin laying a foundation for later conversations. It’s a great book for all ages, but particularly accessible for toddlers and preschoolers. There is nothing explicitly stated about sexual abuse in this book. It is a helpful guide for beginning a conversation about appropriate and wanted touch, and “bathing suit areas.”

Do You Have A Secret by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
Moore-Mallinos is a social worker for children and her book covers a wide range of “secrets,” including bullying. Do You Have A Secret is less explicit about sexual abuse than some others, using the language of “if someone touched you in a way that made you feel uncomfortable and yucky inside.” This made me think that this is a good book for younger children. It’s interactive and provides a lot of material for conversation. The primary lesson is distinguishing between good secrets and bad secrets.

I Said No! by Zack and Kimberly King
Kimberly is the mother of Zack and they co-wrote this book after Zack had an experience of being inappropriately touched at a sleepover. While Kimberly had talked with her son about boundaries she realized in retrospect that conversation had not been forthright and specific enough. So she wrote this book. It is great for mid to older elementary. It’s much wordier and complex and incredibly helpful for children ready to think in more nuanced ways. She uses the language of red and green flags as aids for making distinctions, and this can be a helpful tool for caregivers. She cover bribes vs. rewards, caregiver/doctor care vs stranger touching, keeping a good secret vs. keeping a bad secret.

Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept by Jayneen Sanders
I found this book very helpful because it’s written as a narrative. It’s accessible and interesting to read. There is also helpful guidance for parents in terms of how to read the book. It’s probably not one you want children to pick up on their own. It needs to be processed and discussed with trusted caregivers. The story is to the point and explicitly names the experience of a child being touched in the privates by an adult. I also loved that this book helped equip me. I could see the author pointing me towards warning signs of abuse and how to respond if I started to see those signs in one of my children.

It can be scary and hard to think about sexual abuse. We like to think that there is no way this could happen to us. As a pastor to children I want to partner with caregivers to ensure that we are each doing all we can to create a safe environment for our children’s faith to flourish.

Caregivers can also look at the following sites for additional ways to protect children:
https://rainn.org/protect-your-children
http://www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6292241/k.8331/Healthy_Sexual_Development.htm

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