Difficult Topic, Nice Book, June 26, 2009
Amy Barth has created a book that miraculously makes those awkward conversations with children a little bit easier. Annabelle’s Secret is a great resource for those looking to educate their children about sexual abuse and how to handle it should it ever happen to them.
The story is narrated by Annabelle, a fourteen year-old girl who is a survivor of sexual abuse. An older boy from her neighborhood begins abusing her when she is only seven years old. During and after the abuse, Annabelle struggles with the same issues many abuse victims face. She worries about angering her abuser and parents by telling and she often feels guilt for letting the abuse occur. Annabelle copes with these feelings by mistreating herself and refusing to have a healthy, social life. Once she shares her secret with a parent, the healing process can begin. She is fortunate enough to receive support from her parents, counselor, and other survivors following the abuse.
The topic of sexual abuse can be very difficult to discuss with a child. Thankfully, Annabelle’s Secret is written in a simple, comforting way that will appeal to children. The text is nicely complemented with bright illustrations. It could be read with children by parents or teachers to educate them about sexual abuse and what they can do about it. The book reassures children that it’s okay to tell someone about it, which is a dilemma that often plagues abuse victims. This book would also be appropriate to use by therapists who treat victims of sexual abuse. It offers a variety of ways a child or young adult can cope with abuse, such as tracking feelings in a journal, taking a jog, talking with other victims, or sketching.
Because of the sensitive nature of sexual abuse, many parents and guardians choose to forgo discussing it with their children. This choice could be one they end up regretting. At the very least, providing children with a copy of this book will give them a good idea of the issue and how to protect themselves. However, using this book to help start or guide this important discussion would be even better!