Books

Books for younger children can provide cues for eliciting spontaneous information or they can be suggestive and potentially contaminating, depending upon the book and how it is used. We often read books to very young children, both as an ice breaker and rapport builder and as a possible cue for children to provide spontaneous information about their families and their concerns. The books, which can be bought at the children's department at any bookstore, are on topics such as bathing, nap time, parents who are divorcing, bedtime, dreams, the birth of a new brother or sister, etc. These are environments in which abuse may occur and reading about them may permit a child to naturally and spontaneously speak about events in these circumstances. Such books, although providing possible cues for spontaneous information, are not suggestive in terms of sexual abuse.

Other books directly deal with sexual abuse. Children may be taught about "good" and "bad" touches and told that they can tell others not to touch them if they don't want it. For example, Red Flag Green Flag People (Rape and Crisis Abuse Center, 1985) leads children through a series of pages that present good touch and bad touch and instructs them to color portions of a figure where they were touched. My Feelings (Morgan, 1984) tells children to "trust your feelings" and tell an adult when a touch makes them feel "creepy and icky and such." No More Secrets for Me (Wachter, 1983) contains short stories about children who are touched "in a way you don't like." A Very Special Person (Nelson, 1985) informs children that they can choose who can touch them and that they should tell "yucky secrets" to someone they trust. The research evidence on prevention programs using the same concepts as these books suggests they are both ineffective and may increase false accusations (Krivacska, 1990). Since such books deal directly with sexual abuse, the use of them in an investigatory interview is suggestive.

One of the better books is A Touching Book by Hindman (1985), who uses "secret touching" to refer to sexual abuse. This book, which contains many humorous cartoon-type drawings and clever examples, treats bodies and adult sexuality positively and lacks the antisexuality found in many of the books. But all books of this type are suggestive if used as part of an assessment for suspected sexual abuse.

A completely inappropriate book is Don't Make Me Go Back Mommy: A Child's Book About Satanic Ritual Abuse (Sanford, 1990). This book contains explicit full-color pictures illustrating satanic rituals and is used to encourage the child to describe ritual abuse. One of the illustrations contains naked children in a ritual circle, black-robed figures, and a noose. This book presumes the reality of widespread satanic ritual abuse, despite the fact that there is no evidence suggesting organized satanic, ritual abuse actually occurs (Bottoms, Shaver, & Goodman, 1996). Using it to get information from children cannot produce reliable statements.

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