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Sandy Kleven, Author
Jody Bergsma, Illustrator

"The Right Touch: A Read-Aloud Story to Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse"
Preventing Child Sexual Abuse
When do the Lessons Begin?
Children not Believed
Teaching Children about Sexual Abuse
What to Do if a Child Tells You about an Abusive Situation

"Every child should hear this story. Every child should know that he or she has someone—be it a parent, grandparent, teacher, friend, or guardian—someone to trust and turn to."...Sandy Kleven, LCSW
"The Right Touch" goes far beyond the usual scope of a children's picture book. It is intended to be read aloud by a trusted caregiver to introduce the difficult and often awkward topic of Child Sexual Abuse to our children. I found this book to be beautiful in both content and illustration. Both are
simple, gentle, unoffensive and natural, yet explicit in message. "Kisses and cuddles I love a lot, but if I say 'stop', please touch me not!" It is a gentle and comforting dialogue between mother and child and will reach the listener. It is a child's first and major lesson in boundaries.

Please take a few moments and read about the book, author and prevention of child abuse. I encourage you to purchase at least two copies of this book. One for your own family and one to give as a gift to a daycare, nursery, kindergarten teacher, friend, grandparent, caregiver, etc. It is that important and the book is that good. Thank you.

ORDER:Hardcover

A Touchy Problem: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

by Sandy Kleven, LCSW, Author

Sandy Kleven, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Valdez, Alaska, has been counseling families for more than twenty years. Her activities in sexual abuse prevention include development and testing of prevention curriculum—presentation of workshops to parents, teachers, and children; and creation of an Emmy Award winning docudrama, The Touching Problem. For five years, Ms. Kleven served as director of the SOAPBox Players, an acclaimed prevention theatre group from Bellingham, Washington. She is the author of The Right Touch: A Read-Aloud Story to Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse published by Illumination Arts (April, 1998).

Nothing is more chilling for a couple than to learn that their child has been a victim of a sexual assault. Young children are at critical disadvantage when targeted by sex offenders. Their limited life experience and dependence on adults make them uniquely vulnerable to the trust-building tactics of the child molester. Most parents advise their children about "stranger-danger." But in fact, most offenders—approximately 80%—are known to the child or the family. Sadly, many of these are actual family members—father, stepfather, uncle, grandfather, or mother’s boyfriend.

Those who are sexually fixated on children will go to great lengths to gain the trust of both child and family. These individuals seem like great friends to children. Single mothers can be easily mislead by the guy next door who really "seems to care"; other "friends" often place themselves in positions of responsibility over children: scoutmasters, mentors, coaches, camp counselors, teachers, or religious leaders. A recent news story profiled a habitual female child sex molester, but the vast majority of those who abuse children are men. This Christmas season, a Washington State mentor and Santa Claus pleaded guilty to molesting numerous children over a span of several years. Canadians were shocked to learn of a long-established pedophile ring operating in the back rooms of hockey’s Maple Leaf Gardens. Recently, the Alaskan child welfare system was faulted for not responding to reports of abuse; it failed to remove a nine-year-old girl from the home until after a family member raped her. A most horrific example of abuse, also in Alaska, involves a two-year-old who was smothered when his uncle forced himself upon the child.

Children not Believed

There is seldom a witness to sexual abuse of a child. Young abused children are in great jeopardy because they rarely are able to describe what has happened; thus, a child is often the victim nobody believes. A child who turns away from a once-favored relative may be reprimanded for being rude. A child who tells a parent that "Grandpa kisses icky" may be reassured that grandpa is just trying to be nice. When a child can find the words to communicate about a sexual encounter, a parent might speak to the accused person, who usually tarnishes the child’s credibility by denying that anything occurred or that the child misunderstood what happened.

When a child is believed, intervention may still be limited. It is possible for a child to be assaulted with no resulting physical evidence, and a child’s account alone is rarely enough to result in criminal charges. Catching and jailing the offender provides a measure of justice, but no amount of punishment can heal the young victim’s physical abuse and his or her confusion about sexuality and misplaced trust of adults. Rather than feeling safe at last, they often feel ashamed and guilty. In reality, the only safeguards are education and prevention.

Teaching Children about Sexual Abuse

How can you protect your children from offenders who may live in the neighborhood or lurk in your family? The first line of defense is to educate yourself. You must understand that child sexual abuse is not a rare crime. Surveys of adults indicate that one-in-four girls and one-in-five boys were victims of some unwelcome sexual act during childhood. Once you understand the pervasive and insidious nature of sexual crimes against children, you can educate your children to help insure their safety.

Lessons need to begin at an early age.

If a child can sit still and listen to a story—typically about age three—the child is old enough to be taught sexual abuse prevention. The basic lessons of are straightforward:

If a child can sit still and listen to a story—typically about age three—the child is old enough to be taught sexual abuse prevention. The basic lessons of are straightforward:

Children need to know that sexual abuse of children does occur. Just as we warn that matches can cause fires, we can alert to the potential of sexual abuse.

Children need to know that it is okay to tell if they are sexually molested or accosted, even if they have been forced to stay silent.

Children need to learn the words to communicate what has happened. They should learn words for body parts, basic emotions, and "how/who" to tell in case of abuse.

Children need to understand there are adults who will help them, adults who can be trusted to act if they report sexual abuse.

Often parents do not know how to even broach the subject of sexual abuse prevention. My storybook, The Right Touch: A Read-Aloud Story to Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, was developed for just this purpose. The straightforward dialogue between a mother and her young son Jimmy gives parents the right words. Jimmy pipes in with commonly asked questions. An opportunity is given to teach the parts of the body, and the back cover offers an illustration to help the young visually identify feelings. Reading the story repeatedly, when combined with other safety messages, can build a foundation to help kids avoid harm.

"The Right Touch" story, based on the dramatic vignette "Jimmy’s Bedtime Story," has been tested and refined by the SOAPBox Players in performing for thousands of children, parents, and teachers in the Pacific Northwest. Before presentations, parents would ask me if children would be frightened by this information. After their children saw the production, the parents often reported that their children seemed interested and not at all alarmed, accepting the concepts just as they responded to other less-sensitive safety issues. It seemed to them that their children felt empowered.

Every child should hear this story. Every child should know that he or she has someone—be it a parent, grandparent, teacher, friend, or guardian—someone to trust and turn to.

What to Do if a Child Tells You about an Abusive Situation

Believe the child. Assure the child that it was right to tell and that the abuse was not his or her fault.

Request assistance from the police, sheriff, or child protection agency. Don’t confront the offender yourself. Obtain professional counseling for the child. The long-term psychological damage can be devastating.

Call the Childhelp USA Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD or contact by email at help@childhelpusa.org Trained counselors are available 24 hours a day for crisis intervention and referrals to nearby counseling agencies. Children and adults may be connected to counselors in 144 languages, as needed. Literature is available on request.

Use the Internet to find a vast network of resources to help deal with this unfortunate but all-too-common problem.

The Childhelp USA site is a good place to begin: http://childhelpusa.org/help.html

Sandy Kleven may be reached with comments or interview requests at skleven@ak.net

ORDER: Hardcover