Inside: A book that helps parents to talk about sexual abuse.
A Secret Safe to Tell by Naomi Hunter is a book that talks about body safety, the importance of not keeping secrets and about telling an adult if something makes you feel uncomfortable. In other words, a book that will help you to talk to your child about sexual abuse.
This is the sort of book that all children need to have read to them at some time. The most vulnerable children are those whose parents believe that their kids just aren’t at risk. So I take the attitude of the ‘it can happen to my kids’ and believe that I need to give my kids the skills and knowledge to either get themselves out of a situation or to at least tell someone if something does happen. So the book, A Secret Safe to Tell by Naomi Hunter, is a useful tool that will help parents to talk to their kids about inappropriate touch (ie sexual abuse).
A Secret Safe to Tell by Naomi Hunter was self published by Empowering Resources in 2014. The book was inspired by the authors own experiences of sexual abuse and has been written as a tool to help keep children safe. There are not many books that look at this topic, as it is one of those tough topics that parents find easier to avoid. Also, it can be tricky to talk to kids without scaring them. Although this book is written about a little girl, it is important to remember that boys are just as vulnerable to sexual abuse.
The book has a very gentle approach, and tells the story of a little girl who is inappropriately touched by a trusted friend. She feels a range of mixed emotions and doesn’t know to tell anyone about how she feels. So she tells her story to the birds at the local park. One day she is overheard by a female adult at the park, who she then talks to about what is happening. The abuse then stops.
So, this is how the book goes.
It happened when I was little, always when we were alone. So it's planting the seed. He was my friend, I knew him. Most sexual abuse to kids is from someone they know. You’re more likely to get hit by a truck than get picked up by a stranger on the street and raped. Sorry, but that is the hard reality of it.
He would play with me, he made me feel special. He gave me kisses, he said it was okay. This is grooming ie testing that the child won’t tell and training them not to tell. Grooming can happen quickly or it can happen slowly.
He said it was okay. Kids look to adults for guidance on what is and isn’t okay. So if a trusted person tells a young child that inappropriate touch is okay, they usually believe it.
He said that I was a good girl and I would be perfect. I liked hearing that, we had secrets that no one else could know. Okay, so here the author is talking about secrets because you’re not going to sexually abuse a kid if they’re going to go tell someone. So you want to set them up and make sure that they’re not going to tell on you. Because once you get caught, you might end up in Jail.
Sometimes when we played, I felt as if the whole world was just us and no one would ever come close to understanding our love. I liked his warmth. So, just because someone’s grooming you, doesn’t mean you’re going to hate them. They are very good at what they do and know how to make a child feel special.
But sometimes he did things that worried me and made me feel completely strange on the inside. So, here she is talking about the fact that we get these early signals ie our body has warning signs that lets us know when something wrong is happening.
I thought games were supposed to be fun. He said I would get into big trouble if I told anyone, I never wanted to be bad. Kids want their parents approval, they want approval from everyone. They don’t want to get in trouble, they want to seek approval.
So, again talking about the tricks that people who abuse children use. He said I would upset a lot of people if they knew what I had done. I didn’t want to make anyone cry. He made hurts in places where band-aids could not reach.
So look, you don’t have to get into too much detail about what actually happens ie vaginal penetration, oral sex, anal sex, etc. with this sort of stuff when you first start talking to kids. It can refer to a psychological emotional or physical pain.
I tried to hide the pain, but I wasn’t strong enough. Look, talking about this stuff is scarier for us as adults, than it is for kids. When we read books like this to kids, they usually just accept that it's another story and that we are just telling them more info about what happens in the world.
I thought about telling. But he said I’ll be a liar and no one would ever believe me. Now, this is important, it's leading up to persistence. I can't remember how many times a child has to tell before they are believed. Persistence is very important because, sometimes it can be hard to believe. If my daughter came to me and told me that my partner was sexually abusing her, I would have my doubts as well. I would question it. I would have to believe her, but I would have doubts and questioning because I have no suspicions with him. So I can understand why adults question it. Kids can’t make up lies about things that they don’t understand.
And besides, everyone was too busy to listen anyway. That is so true. The number of times kids tell us stuff and we don’t listen because we just too busy. And they tell us thing sin such a vague way that it is easy to miss the importance or significance of what they are saying. And also, they don’t know how to tell us. They not going to turn around and say “Timmy stuck his penis in my vagina.” They might not even know the words for a penis and vagina. And they’ve also been told that they shouldn’t tell someone. Also, kids usually don’t have good communication skills – heck, we don’t even as adults. So kids just don’t have the communication skills to be able to tell us straight away or the confidence.
My shoulders started to feel heavy. I had trouble sleeping, I dreamed of people yelling at me. So, she is starting to get nightmares and bad dreams.
My heart felt broken, I think it started to change colour. My heart became all muddled and confused, I felt embarrassed and so deeply alone. Sexual abuse touch can be pleasurable. It's like any touch for most people can feel nice. So sexual abuse can create nice sensations and feelings in children. Which is confusing because there’s also pain, and they're also confused because they are feeling sexual feelings and arousal that they're just not ready for.
When I closed my eyes, all I could see were his games, and his hands. It did not feel nice, but he said it did feel nice. What was wrong with me? I needed to escape so I went to the park because I loved to swing high in the sky. I was feeling brave, so with burst of confidence I opened my mouth and told the flowers and the birds my secret.
It was then, that I saw her standing right in front of me. She didn’t think I was lying, she didn’t think I was bad, she didn’t think I was ugly. I don’t like that part. Okay it's talking about a way to disclose, but is that person someone she knows and trusts or a complete stranger? And what if that person hadn’t been standing in front of her? Also, some women do sexually abuse.
Kids can be very literal, anyway, look no book is perfect. What I might love about this, some other sexologists and sexual educators are going to hate, I still think it's still a good book but I don’t like that part.
She didn’t think all those things. She just reached out her arms and surrounded me in her sweet perfume, helping me feel beautiful again. She handed back my heart all colourful and new. His power was broken and now I can swing high into the sky where his hands cannot reach me. I am free. So, talks about telling someone, who in this instance has helped to stop the abuse.
So that is how, A Secret Safe to Tell by Naomi Hunter, goes. It is a tool that you can use to start having a conversation about sexual abuse. It's not the sort of book you want to just pick up and read without looking at it first. This is a heavy topic, so it is a good idea to have a good look at the book by yourself first. This is the sort of book that the first time you read it you might just read it and not talk about it. And then pick it up a week later, read it and then ask a few questions, or you might go “Why do you think she didn’t tell someone?”
So you can ask questions in regards to different ways that they could be feeling. You can find some tips on how to read tricky books like this here.
A Secret Safe to Tell by Naomi Hunter is one of the few books that has been written that talk about sexual abuse. It is a useful tool that you could use to talk to your own child about sexual abuse.
A Secret Safe to Tell is ideal for children between the ages of 4 - 7 years of age.
You can find more books like this in my extensive list of Sex Education Books for Children.
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You’ll also find an extensive range of sex education books for children, for kids of all ages. There's even some books in there for parents!
If you're looking for some ideas on how to talk to your child about bodies, Let's Talk About Bodies, will help you to start naming the private body parts and to have shame-free conversations with them about bodies. It is filled with lots of different ideas on how to have natural converasations with your child about their body.
You'll also find some child friendly anatomically-correct cartoon illustrations of the genitals and internal reproductive organs that are appropriate for children from the age of 3 and up. Let's Look at Different Body Parts is a printable that will help take the awkward out of talking to your child about their body, so they grow up feeling educated, confident, and comfortable in their own skin.
If you're worried that talking to your child about bodies might lead to questions about sex, then you can relax. Let's Talk About Sex, will help you to explain sexual intercourse to your child in a way they will understand. It breaks sex down into simple steps that take the stress out of explaining!
If your're unsure about how to answer your child's questions about sex, then The Sex Education Answer Book will give you age-specific answers to the most common questions kid's ask parents about sex. Which means you don't need to worry about finding a child-friendly explanation that your child understands.
I'm Cath, a sex educator living in Australia with my husband and 2 kids. I help parents to talk about sex (with less cringe and more confidence) and empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. To find a better way to talk about sex, you can join my community of parents and visit my shop for helpful resources.