My Body Belongs to Me

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 02:16 pm

As a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City for more than a decade, I have often encountered My Body Belongs to Me-small2children who were sexually abused for lengthy periods of time and suffered in silence. One case in particular had a profound impact on me and compelled me to write a children’s book called My Body Belongs to Me.

I prosecuted the case of a 9-year-old girl who had been raped by her stepfather since she was 6. She told no one. 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 have thought often of that very sweet, very brave 9-year-old girl. It occurred to me that after three painful years, all it took to end her nightmare was a TV program encouraging her to “tell a teacher.” I wrote My Body Belongs to Me to continue that message. It endeavors to teach children that they don’t have to endure abuse in silence. Parents and educators can use it as a tool to facilitate an open dialogue with youngsters.

The story is a simple scenario involving a gender neutral child who is inappropriately touched by an uncle’s friend. The powerful message really comes through when the youngster tells on the offender and the parents praise the child’s bravery. The last page shows a proud, smiling child doing a “strong arm” pose. The text assures them that it wasn’t their fault and by speaking out the child will continue to grow big and strong. It is a compelling and uplifting message.

The “Suggestions for the Storyteller” section is an important, interactive feature that facilitates the discussion to follow. It will make any caregiver feel more comfortable talking about this important subject, thereby helping to PREVENT the unthinkable from happening to their child.  Research tells us that child sexual abuse does not discriminate. It is a problem that affects everyone.

  • In the United States, approx. 1 of 4 girls and 1 of 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • 47% of child sexual abuse victims wait 5 years or more to speak up, if they ever do.
  • 93% of child sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they already know.

It is my sincere hope that by educating girls and boys about this taboo subject, My Body Belongs to Me will prevent them from becoming victims in the first place.

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

  • To keep your children safe:
    1. No secrets. Period. Encourage your children to tell you about things that happen to them that make them feel scared, sad or uncomfortable. If children have an open line of communication, they will be more inclined to alert you to something suspicious before it becomes a problem. The way I effectuate this rule is as follows: If someone, even a grandparent, were to say something to my child such as “I’ll get you an ice cream later, but it will be our secret”, I firmly, but politely say “We don’t do secrets in our family.” Then I say to my child “Right? We don’t do secrets. We can tell each other everything.”
    2. Teach your child the correct terms for their body parts. This will make them more at ease if they need to tell you about a touch that made them feel uncomfortable.
    3. Teach your child to tell a safe person if someone touches them in an inappropriate way. Discuss with children the importance of telling a parent, teacher or other trusted adult right away.
    4. Let children decide for themselves how they want to express affection. Children should not be forced to hug or kiss if they are uncomfortable. Even if they are your favorite aunt, uncle or cousin, your child should not be forced to be demonstrative in their affection. While this may displease you, by doing this, you will empower your child to say no to inappropriate touching.
  • If you choose to use My Body Belongs to Me as a tool for teaching your family about body safety, here are some suggestions:
    1. Read the book at least once for enjoyment before using it to get into a serious discussion.
    2. After reading the book, help lead an open-ended discussion by asking questions such as the following: What are your parts that are private, Why did the child get scared, What did the uncle’s friend do, What did he tell the little child, If someone touches your private parts, should it be a secret, Why did the uncle’s friend put his finger up to his lips, What did the child do when he did that, Were the mom and dad happy when the child told them what had happened, What did they do, If the child did not tell the parents, who else could be told, How does the child feel in the picture at the end?
    3. Find teachable moments with your child to reinforce the lessons learned in the book.

Comments

4 Responses to “My Body Belongs to Me”

  1. Sandy Stewart says:

    Jill,
    Having just finished reading the article describing your book, Speak Your Mind, I feel compelled to tell you how impressed I am by your direct approach to a serious, still-growing problem. From being a subject that (many years ago) could not be discussed openly, to (more recently) media exposes at the highest levels of religion and politics, to (presently) an ever-growing problem with unsafe computer websites, sexual child abuse is still on the rise. And the bottom line is, our children need to be protected from predators. We’ll never know how many children in the past, fell between the cracks and never had the chance to resolve their guilt or shame. How many would have had the opportunity to confront their abuser and then move on with their lives? Knowing full-well the impact child molestation can have on any child, I can really appreciate the laying of a foundation for openness between a parent/trusted adult and a child.

    Your book gives young victims of sexual abuse as well as potential victims of sexual abuse, a very simple, clear plan of action they can follow. The most important component of that plan, to me, anyway, is the permission slip that encourages them to speak out to a trusted adult. I’m hoping that this common sense answer finally gets heard by those who need to hear it most.: the young children who, thanks to your book, will have learned how to protect themselves from those who wrongfully, knowingly step over the line between appropriate and inappropriate adult/child boundaries.

    I will be purchasing two copies of Speak Your Mind to give to the parents of both of my sets of grandchildren, so they can be taught these valuable, empowering lessons.

    Thank you for your willingness to address a very difficult subject that needed to be addressed,

    Sandy

    • Sandy,

      I am glad you found the article and the book useful. I know the parents you send it to will agree it is a critical tool in facilitating an important discussion. You referenced another book title and I wonder if that is another book you heard of or if that was the message you were left with after reading about My Body Belongs to Me. I thought you might be interested in a video about My Body Belongs to Me that we had put together. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-JTK9pOZ6M

      Be well and thank you for your comment.

      Jill Starishevsky
      Author, My Body Belongs to Me
      http://www.MyBodyBelongstoMe.com

  2. 38traci says:

    Thank you. I have been trying to discuss this subject with my children and this book looks like a terrific tool. I appreciate you sharing this. I’m going to check it out.
    🙂
    Traci

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