In 95% of cases, the child will know the abuser. The abuser could be a member of their family, but they could instead be someone in your child’s life eg. a neighbour, a club coach. The person may be a well-loved and respected person in the community. That is part of the grooming process. Secrets are another part of the grooming process. If your child knows it is wrong for someone to touch their private parts, if they say no and tell someone, they may be protected from further harm.
Everyday you can teach and reinforce body safety messages with your children. Teach them that they are the boss of their body and what they say goes! Teach them to cover their private parts. That they should not let people see their private parts or see someone else’s. Obviously the best time of the day to reinforce this message is at bath or shower time. They should wash their own private parts, and teach them independence with putting on their own clothes. They should be getting dressed and undressed behind a closed door. You can’t expect them to know in which situations they should protect their body if you aren’t practisting this at home.
Today’s blog post is an interview with children’s book author and body safety advocate, Jayneen Sanders. Jayneen has a background in teaching and has authored many children’s books over the years. She has some terrific books that help guide the conversation with your children about inappropriate touching, boundaries, empathy and more. I hope you enjoy the interview!
I grew up on a farm in Queensland where horses were a major part of my life. I trained as a primary school teacher at the University of Southern Queensland. Following my training, I took a gap year and backpacked through Asia and Europe. On my return, I worked as a teacher for a number of years in rural Queensland. I particularly loved working with children in the early years. At the age of 24, I packed up my bags and moved to Melbourne to study photography; where I also worked part-time as a relief teacher. Somewhere in the next two years I took a full-time job as a primary school editor for Longman Cheshire. From there I moved to Macmillan as a commissioning editor. In the early 90s my husband and I moved to Japan to teach English. We stayed there three and a half years, and our first daughter was born in Japan. On returning to Melbourne, we wanted more of a ‘farm life’ where I could ride horses and the children could grow up free to roam, so we moved to the hills behind Melbourne. It was at this time, we started our own business and we both worked from home. I commissioned and edited projects and wrote children’s readers under the name of Jay Dale. As our three daughters grew, I also taught at a number of schools, and juggled publishing work and motherhood. It was fun and varied. The last seven years have been spent as lead author of Engage Literacy, and also writing books on body safety, consent, respect, and gender equality under our own imprint, Educate2Empower Publishing.
2. When you were growing up, did you have a favourite book as a child?
Not a favourite … but I read everything and anything about horses. I particularly liked the pony stories by Josephine Pullein-Thompson.
3. You have written children’s picture books about body safety. Why have you chosen to write about this topic?
When I was a young editor, I worked on a book called ‘Keeping Children Safe ‘ by Dr Freda Briggs. I decided then and there if I were to have children they would be educated to tell if they were ever touched inappropriately. When the children were small I spent seven years on school council. I asked if ‘Body Safety’ education could be introduced into the school curriculum but sadly, this never happened and the conversation was often awkward. So determined to be heard, I used my skills as an author to write ‘Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept’ providing parents and teachers with a tool to broach this subject with children in an age-appropriate and non-threatening way. As a parent and teacher, I felt very concerned the community was not doing enough to keep kids safe. I still feel this way!
4. Since “Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept” was first published what kind of feedback have you received about the impact it has had?
Because the book is in no way graphic, it has allowed teachers and parents a safe segway into Body Safety conversations that need to be had with children. We know approximately 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 12 boys will be sexually abused before 18 and 95% will know the abuser. This book is now in China, Vietnam, Taiwan, US, UK, Canada and soon Mexico. It has been translated into seven languages. We receive feedback that children have been empowered by the conversations this book instigates. We also know some children have disclosed because of this book and that means their abuse will, in all probability, stop. This is very rewarding for my family and myself as we published this book ourselves.
5. Some parents may feel that picture books like “Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept” may scare or make their children worries. What do you say to parents who feel this way?
“Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept” is written in the form of a fable. The language is age-appropriate and non-threatening. However, the message is clear and children are neither frightened or worried by its contents; in fact, quite the opposite! For a child who has never been abused, it is just another story, and they feel a great deal of empathy for little Sir Alfred. However, the message that unsafe secrets should never be kept is not lost on children. The story of Sir Alfred will stay with them – and if they are ever touched inappropriately, it is my hope, they will know to tell a trusted adult straightaway. All my books include Discussion Questions to scaffold and enhance the learning in the books.
6. Pornography used to be in the form of images in a magazine or on paper, and the sad reality nowadays is that pornography is now all over the internet. Children can easily access these images. What can parents do to reduce the effect of pornography on their children?
Firstly limit your child’s internet access and put all the safety devices in place. Secondly teach your child their Body Safety Rules early, and that includes this rule: if anyone touches your private parts, asks you to touch their private parts or shows you pictures of private parts (pornography) tell a trusted adult on your safety network straightaway. Always have open and honest conversations with your kids so if they do hear or see something inappropriate they will tell you immediately. Be their safe person! Be their go to person about anything!
7. How early should parents start teaching body safety to their children?
Parents can start to educate kids from birth by simply calling their genitals by their correct names and respecting children’s body boundaries. From 2.5 onwards children are ready to learn key Body Safety skills. We have a free ‘My Body Safety Rules’ poster and animation at e2publishing.info under RESOURCES.
8. Do you have a special message for educators and parents about helping to keep our children safe?
Please don’t let your fear of this topic put the children in your care at risk. Children who are empowered through Body Safety Education are educated to tell! It is far better that they are taught Body Safety skills than have their childhood stolen. Childhood sexual abuse cannot be undone. The currency of a sexual predator is secrecy, and if a child knows from the first inappropriate touch it is wrong, they will tell. As well as educating children, we need to educate ourselves in Body Safety, grooming, signs of sexual abuse and how to respond to a disclosure. I cannot emphasise enough how important your response is to a child’s disclosure. And as your knowledge and awareness around this topic increases, please educate the community you live in both physically and on-line. Let’s have a ripple effect to help keep kids safe. We can all play our part. Educating kids in Body Safety is empowering and easy. There is no downside. You can also join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SomeSecretsShouldNeverBeKept for articles and updates.
9. Will we be seeing some more books from you?
Yes! Absolutely! We will have three new books this year and two next year. They will focus on gender equality, and social and emotional intelligence issues.
Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept
For ages: 3 to 12 years
Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept is a beautifully illustrated children’s picture book that sensitively broaches the subject of keeping children safe from inappropriate touch. We teach water and road safety, but how do we teach Body Safety to young children in a way that is neither frightening nor confronting? This book is an invaluable tool for parents, caregivers, teachers and healthcare professionals to broach the subject of safe and unsafe touch in a non-threatening and age-appropriate way. The comprehensive notes to the reader and discussion questions at the back of the book support both the reader and the child when discussing the story. Suitable for children aged 3 to 12 years.
Story is a powerful medium to discuss difficult topics with children in an appropriate way. Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept was written as a a fable with an important message, i.e. if a child is ever touched inappropriately they need to tell a trusted adult and keep on telling until they are believed. Body Safety Education (also known as protective behaviours or child sexual abuse prevention education) involves so much more than focusing on stranger danger. In fact, 95% of sexually abused children will know their abuser and only 5% will be strangers. It is also crucial for children to learn that they must never keep secrets that make them feel bad or uncomfortable (in fact, we teach it’s best not to have secrets in families, only happy surprises). The trouble with secrets is that they are the main tool used by child molesters to ensure children remain silent about the abuse. Ensuring the secret is kept is of utmost importance to the perpetrator. Therefore, threats and insisting no-one will believe the child is used as a way of controlling the child to be silent. Through Body Safety Education parents and children will learn the importance of there being no secrets between us.
No Means No!
For ages: 3 to 9 years
No Means No! is a 26 page full colour children’s picture book about an empowered little girl who has a very strong and clear voice in all issues, especially those relating to her body and personal boundaries. This book can be read to children from 3 to 9 years. It is a springboard for discussions regarding children’s choices and their rights. The ‘Note to the Reader’ at the beginning of the book and the ‘Discussion Questions’ on the final pages, guide and enhance this essential discussion.
It is crucial that our children, from a very young age, are taught to have a clear, strong voice in regards to their rights — especially about their bodies. In this way, they will have the confidence to speak up when they are unhappy or feel uncomfortable in any situation. A strong, confident voice as a young child converts to a strong, confident pre-teen, teenager and adult. With the prevalence today of online and offline bullying and various forms of abuse, such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse; our young people need to learn (from a young age) to always speak up when their rights are not being respected.
The aim of this book is to empower young children and to give them a voice so they can grow up into empowered adults. When a child, teenager or adult says, ‘No!’ to any form of coercion, this should be immediately respected. A world where ‘No!’ does actually mean ‘No!’ can be a world with far less violence and increased respect for humankind. By educating our children to have true respect for one another, this world can be a much safer and more positive place.
Body Safety Education (aka sexual abuse prevention education) empowers girls and boys through knowledge, and teaches them they have the right to say, ‘No’ and to respect other’s personal boundaries. Both girls and boys need to learn to ask for consent and this can be taught from a very young age.
Some of the scenarios in this book are typical of approaches used by sexual abusers (sexual predators/molesters/pedophiles) when grooming children for sexual abuse. Their aim is to desensitize the child to having their personal space violated and desensitize them to touch.
You, Me and Empathy
For ages: 4 and over
This charming story uses verse, beautiful illustrations and a little person called Quinn to model the meaning of empathy. Quinn shows an abundance of understanding, compassion and kindness towards others. Empathy is a learnt trait, and one to nurture in all children. Included are Discussion Questions for parents, caregivers and educators, and suggested activities to promote empathy and kindness.
Author: Jayneen Sanders – Jayneen is an experienced author, teacher, mothers of three, and a passionate advocate for teaching respectful relationships, gender equality and personal body safety.
Let’s talk about body boundaries, consent & respect
For ages: 4 to 10
Teaching young children about body boundaries, both theirs and others, is crucial to a child’s growing sense of self, their confidence and how they should expect to be treated by others.
A child growing up knowing they have a right to their own personal space, gives that child ownership and choices as to what happens to them and to their body.
It is equally important a child understands, from a very young age, they need to respect another person’s body boundary and ask for their consent when entering their personal space.
This book explores these concepts with children in a child-friendly and easily-understood manner, providing familiar scenarios for children to engage with and discuss.
Also included are in-depth Discussion Questions for parents, caregivers and educators to further enhance the learning and to initiate important conversations around body boundaries, consent and respect.