I love to write. You might say it is my passion. I love words. I love the sound of words. I love putting them together and listening for the music. In a way it’s like putting a puzzle together and making a word picture. I love the color and texture and shape of words. I like how they feel in my mouth and how they slide through the air and how they touch my heart.
It’s really fun when I get paid to write, but that isn’t what drives me. Part of it is the joy and the magic of words. I love how good writing draws people together. The other part is about having a voice, about making a difference. I guess its that part—the making a difference part—that draws me to topics that most intelligent writers would avoid.
About three years ago, I watched a TV talk show about sexual abuse of children and teenagers. Real kids with real stories were interviewed. I was horrified, and I was angry, and I began to write. What I wrote was a children’s story—a picture book—about sexual abuse. It is simple and direct. It speaks of solutions. It gives hope. It encourages children to speak up if they are being violated. It encourages parents and other responsible adults to be watchful. It tells parents what to look for and what to do if the unthinkable is happening to someone they love.
Just as I finished writing my book, I met a gifted artist, named Brandilyn Speth, who shared my passion for making a difference. She was excited about adding her voice to mine in the form of illustrations. I love the clarity that her work brought to my words. Early this spring we felt that it was time to test the market. Because we were dealing with a very sensitive issue, we knew that many publishers would not be comfortable with our book. Thinking of the destructive nature of sexual abuse gave us courage. Wanting to make a difference for children who are being hurt and families that are aching for support and solutions, we decided to move forward.
In early April we sent our manuscript to a carefully chosen publisher. Our manuscript got good reviews. It is being considered for publication. The children’s book director likes the book. He likes the illustrations. He knows there is a need. However, he is concerned about the numbers. How many copies can he sell? I understand his concern. He needs to make a profit. I need to make a difference.
My would-be publisher calls this a “niche” book; meaning that he doesn’t expect it to sell many copies. It fits a small “niche” of the public. I, on the other hand, feel that abuse is rampant and that there is hardly any corner of the earth that has not been touched by sexual abuse. I imagine my book flying off the shelves and into the hands and homes of children who need its message.
Does it surprise you to know that more than 1,100 cases of child sexual abuse are reported everyday? This translates to more than 400,000 cases each year. Ongoing studies continually confirm that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually molested before the age of 18. Additionally some studies have shown that only 10% of sexually abused children are molested by strangers. One survey showed that "... 50% to 80% of child sexual abuse victims are abused by people they know.”
Clearly we need answers, and we need them now. Children need to be taught that they have rights, that they can say no, and that they can get help. Parents need to know what to watch for and how to respond in a crisis. Both need to know that they are not alone and that they can get help. Our book doesn’t have all the answers but it is a good starting place.
If you think sexual abuse of children is a big deal, I would love to hear from you. Do you see sexual abuse of children as a main stream problem? Is there someone close to you who has been damaged by sexual abuse? How interested would you be in a well written book that addresses this sensitive issue? Would you buy a book like this for yourself? For someone you love? Would you buy it is a gift? Would you buy it only if you were in the midst of a crisis, or would you buy it as preventative education? Feel free to respond anonymously, if that is more comfortable for you. You can also respond to email@example.com.
When people ask me questions about my book, they often want to know what age it is written for. My usual response is, “What age is it not written for?” You see, children of every age have been sexually abused. Babies are not exempt, nor are teenagers, or the handicapped, or elderly. Boys as well as girls are sexually abused. Adult men and women may carry scars from childhood sexual abuse, that never fully healed. Our book is simple enough for a parent to read to a young child, yet profound enough to influence a teenager, informative enough to provide help to a troubled parent, and powerful enough to reach out to a wounded adult.