'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 14 July 2012

Review: Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept

I like to think of myself as a reasonable person (but don’t we all?) I try to look at both sides of an argument, I stick up for what I’m passionate about and I only get my bossy boots on when I believe that no one else is going to take charge. Quite recently though, I discovered a not-so-reasonable side of myself that I was as surprised as anyone to meet. You see, eleven months ago I gave birth to my baby daughter. Around this same time, I began to worry.

In the lead up to her birth, I had already anticipated that this would become part of my life. Until the end of my days I would worry about fires, car crashes, crossing the street, dog attacks ... the list goes on and on. My Mum aptly refers to this worry as the ‘Mother Bear Instinct’ and mine had kicked into overdrive. As I worried however, I found that with most of these things, there were various prevention methods I could teach to my daughter as she grows, many of which school would probably reinforce, but there was one that plagued my mind, that actually kept me up at night, that I feared above all else - sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse of children is scarily common in Australia and the world today. The thought of someone hurting a child, of hurting my baby in this way was something that I could not get out of my head and I began trying to think of ways to protect my daughter from ever going through such an experience. My initial mother bear reaction was extreme; No sleep-overs. No babysitters. I’m never letting her out of my sight! Obviously, this is not a possibility; sleep-overs were such a fantastic part of my own childhood, I don’t want to prevent my daughter from experiencing her life for fear of it. I struggled to find a balance between protective and over-protective and finally came to an obvious conclusion.

My best weapon against sexual abuse is my daughter herself. She needs to be aware of her rights, her body, her confidence and I need to help her discover this with a ‘prepare not scare’ mentality. I want my little girl to grow up to have complete control over her own body so that one day (twenty years or so in the future) she can have the amazing experience of choosing to share her body with someone that she loves. So for months I have been preparing myself. Thinking about what to tell her and how, trying to find the balance between too much information and just enough and wondering how to broach the subject and when, all the while without making her afraid of the big wide world.

Then recently, I saw an article on this very site. It was about a woman called Jayneen Sanders who had written the book Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept. An illustrated picture book, Some Secrets follows the story of a brave little knight who is ‘tickled’ inappropriately by an older companion, making him feel sick inside and unable to speak up. Jayneen’s use of simple and clear language provides a story that is frank and honest in its discussion of inappropriate touching and that lead parents beautifully into discussions with their children about body confidence, breeches of trust and bad secrets.

I was overwhelmed by how much this book simplified my job of approaching of this subject with my daughter, enabling me to do so from a younger age than I originally planned. I will be reading this to her in amongst the hundreds of other books in our house and I am so excited by the idea that it will be just another bed time story to her, but from it she will grow up expecting to have full rights to her body, expecting that she can say ‘NO!’ to an adult and expecting that if (god forbid) anything ever does happen, she can tell me and that no one can ever shame or guilt her into silence.

Some Secrets also does a lot to work against the stereotyping of sexual predators, portraying the older companion as a high ranking member of society, loved by all and most importantly, a trusted friend of both the brave little knight and his mother. I believe this portrayal shows children and parents alike, that it does not matter how important or loved a person might be, hurting a child is never ok and should never be kept a secret.

I felt so incredibly grateful to Jayneen for being brave enough to broach such a difficult subject and for going to such lengths to have her book published. I felt like shouting about it from the rooftops (I had to settle for Facebook) and I hope that people, not just parents but ALL people, will join me in arming our children with the best weapons available to them – self confidence, open communication, body awareness, a safety network and the ability to say “NO!”.

And although my mother bear instinct still occasionally urges me to lock my little girl away in the safety of a tall, tall tower, I have realised that sometimes protecting your baby can mean teaching them how to protect themselves. So this is what I will do.

- review by our very newest contributor Rebecka Shelberg

Title: Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept
Author: Jayneen Sanders
Illustrator: Craig Smith
Publisher: UpLoad Publishing, $24.95 RRP
Publication Date: 2011
Format: Hard Cover
ISBN: 9780646546230
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book