My Body Belongs to Me is a children’s book intended to prevent child sexual abuse by teaching 3-8 year olds their bodies are private. Written in simple rhyme and complemented by beautiful illustrations, the book introduces the very sensitive subject of sexual abuse to young children in a loving and gentle manner. 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.
Tell us something about yourself.
I am the mother of three and a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City where I have prosecuted hundreds of sex offenders and dedicated my career to seeking justice for victims of child abuse and sex crimes. Outside the courtroom, my fondness for writing led me to create thepoemlady.com, where I pen personalized pieces for special occasions. I am also the founder of HowsMyNanny.com, a service that enables parents to purchase a license plate for their child’s stroller so the public can report positive or negative nanny observations.
What inspired you to write this book?
As a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City for more than a decade, I have often encountered children 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 this book.
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 should use it as a tool to facilitate an open dialogue with youngsters. It is my 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.
How did you choose the title?
I wanted a title that taught children in a simple way that their bodies are their own. The book is meant to empower children and the title screams out empowerment to me. It is a message they should carry throughout their lives.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
I would advise people to write about something they feel strongly about. In order to get out there every day and promote your book, you need to believe in the subject matter and want to talk about it. I can talk about child sex abuse prevention to anyone and I always feel passionate about it. To me, this is crucial to success.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Parents and educators of children who are three to eight years old. I have also been told that the book is helpful for autistic children as the message and pictures are simple and straight forward. The book contains a “Suggestions for the Storyteller” section which 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. Studies show that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be molested and without educating children as to the importance of disclosing, the abuse can continue and escalate.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
To learn more about Jill Starishevsky and My Body Belongs to Me, visit http://www.MyBodyBelongstoMe.com.