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.