Author of My Body Belongs To Me, Jill Starishevsky shares her story on how the book came to be.
When I became pregnant with my first, I did my best to be a prepared mom. I read a variety of subjects – vaccines, breastfeeding, choking hazards and back to sleep, among others. As my little girl has grown, I have continued to educate myself about age appropriate subject matter.
Sadly, I hit a brick wall on the subject of prevention of child sexual abuse. Despite my search, I found no age appropriate books to read my little one or materials on how to handle this subject with her. I had no idea when to talk to her or what to say to keep her safe from sexual predators.
As a sex crimes prosecutor in New York City with over a decade of experience, this shocked me. For I know all too well the sad facts. Despite the fact that no parent believes their child is going to be victimized, statistics show that one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood. Worse yet, without being taught that his or her body has boundaries, a child may be too young to understand that the abuse is wrong, and thus it continues and often escalates.
My pediatrician, well respected and from a large prominent practice, offered little guidance. Despite having a comprehensive website that provided valuable information about positive parenting and nutritional health, it was silent on this important subject. When I asked him about this during one of my daughter’s appointments, he told me that as soon as she had basic communication skills and was old enough to be out of my sight, I should have a conversation with her. He said, “Tell her that the parts covered up by her bathing suit are private and that no one should touch them.” While I thought this was sound advice, I didn’t feel I could speak to her without more. What if I messed it up? What if I scared her?
After I met with her doctor, I went to the children’s library here in New York City (one of the largest in the country) and asked the librarian for all their books on talking to children about “good touch/bad touch.” The woman disappeared and returned five minutes later with a stack of books on the “sense of touch” – you can touch hard things and soft things, etc. Clearly the librarian did not understand me. I tried again. I told her I wanted to have a discussion with my three-year-old about the fact that no one should be touching her private parts. A look of acknowledgment came over the librarian’s face and this time she returned with six books. I read through each of them. The majority were written in the early 1990s and they were geared toward twelve-year-olds. Certainly they were far too advanced for my soon to be three-year-old. My search of the Internet proved equally futile.
These experiences coupled with my professional expertise caused me to write My Body Belongs to Me. As a prosecutor, I have often encountered children who were sexually abused for lengthy periods of time and suffered in silence. Years earlier 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. The defendant was convicted after trial 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.
Geared toward 3-10 year-olds, this book, with an easy rhyme and attractive pictures is an excellent tool to facilitate a dialogue about sexual abuse. It makes children aware that when it comes to their bodies, there are boundaries. It assures them that it’s OK to tell a parent or teacher if someone touches their “private parts.” The overriding message of My Body Belongs to Me is that if someone touches you, tell. Just as we teach youngsters what to do in case of fire, we must teach them what to do if someone touches them inappropriately. The book also includes a section that provides tips for parents and educators on how to approach this delicate subject.
I am extremely pleased that many child sexual abuse prevention experts as well as parents and teachers have endorsed this much needed new publication. 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. With or without the aid of this book, I urge you to talk to your sons and daughters about child sexual abuse prevention when they are young. It is one of the most important gifts you will ever give them.
About My Body Belongs to Me
My Body Belongs to Me 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.
Order the book at MyBodyBelongsToMe.com
About Jill Starishevsky
Jill Starishevsky is an Assistant District Attorney in New York City, where she has prosecuted hundreds of sex offenders and dedicated her career to seeking justice for victims of child abuse and sex crimes. Outside the courtroom, Jill’s fondness for writing led her to create thepoemlady.com, where she pens personalized pieces.
Her mission to protect children, along with her penchant for poetry, inspired My Body Belongs to Me. A mother of two, Jill is also 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 observation