Thursday, January 28, 2010

Protecting Kids Through Honest Dialogue

A Facebook friend posted this link to her profile. It was devastating to go through some of the posts on the organization's blog and see just how prevalent child sexual abuse is in India, and the possible reasons for that. I know it's far higher everywhere than most people think, but every time I read/hear of a new case where a child is silenced or shut down, or a perpetrator is let off the hook with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, it tears me apart.

When I worked at the Children's Aid Society years ago, I went to court with a pre-teen who had been repeatedly abused by her father since she was about six. She had run away and was staying with her older sister (who accompanied us to court). The courts made the pre-teen return home to her father because her statement "lacked credibility." While it's possible she was making it all up, and I suppose she could have doctored the photos of scars and bruises, and her sister's testimony could have been in conspiracy, the evidence that children do not make this sh*t up if nothing is happening in the home is overwhelming. My kids make stuff up all the time. But this kind of stuff never even enters their radar.

I've been thinking a lot about protecting my kids and everything that means. I know some people think that protecting children means keeping certain books, films, etc. away from them. If the books are ADULT books, I agree with that. But if the books openly discuss issues in an age-appropriate way, I don't think they should be kept from the children they are meant to educate. I do think parents and care-givers have a responsibility to discuss the material with their children, however. Reading materials are not a substitute for discussion.

As someone who grew up in a home where NOTHING related to sex or the body was discussed openly, I have to say that open and honest dialogue around these types of things (in a non-threatening, age-appropriate way!) has to be one of the single most important protections for our kids.

Here are some helpful, non-threatening books I've found that address various issues kids may face -- from trauma to protecting themselves from unwanted touch:

A Terrible Thing Happened
Please Tell: A Child's Story About Sexual Abuse
My Body Is Private
Your Body Belongs to You
The Right Touch
I Said No!
Some Parts Are Not For Sharing

If you know of other great books or resources, please leave them in the comments.


Marjorie said...

Thank you for posting on this issue. Your experience of the courts is truly tragic but I suspect all too common. We certainly do need to keep the topic out there in the open - including with our own kids - thank you also for the recommended booklist.

Neesha Meminger said...

Marjorie, thank you for your comment. I, too, suspect that the experience I had in the courts was not uncommon. The silence and erasure of around this issue is soul destroying. I'm just glad there are books available for us to at least begin dialogue with the children in our lives.

Post a Comment