Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Publishing truth about child sexual abuse

My main purpose in writing "Kyleah's Tree," besides furnishing an exciting reading adventure, was to attempt to dispel the beauty myth that is so pervasive among today's youth. Too many kids believe that you have to be beautiful to fit in. If they don't see their own beauty through the eyes of their peers, their self-esteem plummets. What I hope for kids to get from this book is that today's fashions and popular standards of beauty do not measure a person's true worth. I wrote this book in the hope that it would build self-esteem in an indirect way. 

As is always the case in my middle-grade novels, other important themes and issues that kids face, usually as a result of the main theme, arise. For Kyleah, other issues that resulted from her loneliness and lack of self-esteem included running away from her foster home—and wishing she had stayed— and exploitation and abuse by adults she met along the way. 

Some adults are uncomfortable with the sexual abuse scene in the story, even though Kyleah escaped before the perpetrator got any farther than touching her breast. I felt it was important to have that much, but not necessary to let it go any further in order to send the message to young readers. It is not okay for anyone to violate your space or touch your body. It is okay to run and it is okay to tell. It would be helpful if this incident about Kyleah could initiate a conversation between parents and children. Below is a quote from the Mennonite Central Committee on prevention of child sexual abuse. 

One of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is to have open, honest and age appropriate conversations with children about their bodies and sexual development. This is a proven effective form of preventing child abuse.

There have been many books written for the express purpose of educating children for their protection against sexual abuse. Many are listed on the link above. More can be found at Notes from the Windowsill. 

I know what happens to kids whose parents are too afraid or too embarrassed to discuss sexual predation with their children or to let them read about it. Those are the kids with the biggest chance of becoming victims. Children who know what to watch out for and how to respond are far less likely to be victimized or to keep the perpetrator's secret.