Some of you may know that I went to college for Social Work. In order to complete my degree, I chose to do my internship at a local rape crisis/sexual assault center. Part of my work included counseling, going along to medical appointments, and offering support in court.
Over and over, I found myself working with children, and it broke my heart. Here I was, a mom, seeing the hurt on these little kids' faces. It terrified me. I could not imagine seeing my own child in such pain.
One of the things I learned, during my time there, was to educate and support. I wanted my son to know he could always talk to me, that he could tell me anything. I don't want to scare him, but I want him to be careful, and to know there are dangers in the world.
We recently received a copy of My Body Belongs to Me by Jill Starishevsky. As a Bronx Assistant Attorney, Starishevsky encountered children who had suffered sexual abuse for long periods of time, in silence. The book is intended to open up the taboo topic of sexual abuse and help children understand that they can tell someone. Not only that, it may even help prevent sexual abuse in some situations.
I shared the book with my 4 year old. To be completely honest, I was terrified at first. Even though I had worked in the field, had read it to myself beforehand, it's still a tough topic to approach, but a necessary one.
The book is easy to read, and the illustrations kept his attention as well. I read slowly to allow him to ask questions. Which he did. When the book discusses a child being abused, he asked "why did he [the adult] do that?" and followed up with "he must be a bad man."
I appreciated the Suggestions for the Storyteller page at the end of the book. It offered topics to discuss during the reading and after. Using it as a guide, I posed situations for my son, and asked how he would respond. We talked about secrets and who we can talk to if someone is bothering us.
One thing the book doesn't mention, but I stressed with my child, is saying no or running away. I want him to know it's okay to say no to an adult in some situations. So often we teach them to always listen to adults, but they need to know that there are exceptions.
My Body Belongs to Me was a great tool in opening up communication. I'm sure that we will be rereading it and discussing the topic a little more, especially with him heading off to school this year. I think it's a must have for any bookshelf.