Latasha Fleming believes that if children "Know" the secrets of abuse, there will be "No" secrets. She wrote kNOw Tiny Secrets: How To Keep Your Body Private and Safe to share that idea with parents and adults working with children.
With help from bright and friendly illustrations by Colleen Madden, Latasha's book provides a safe, age-appropriate way to teach children awareness of sexual abuse at a young age. It is designed for parents to read with their 4 - 9 year-olds.
Latasha recently joined us to talk about her book and protecting children from sexual abuse:
How did you come to write kNOw Tiny Secrets?
kNOw Tiny Secrets was born once I chose to start healing and to no longer be a victim of sexual abuse. My daughter was just starting preschool and at the time I was already teaching her about body safety. It hit me like a ton of bricks that my baby was getting older and that my abuser was free and possibly abusing other children. As a child, I never felt empowered to speak up for myself and I was easily convinced that my abuser and his manipulative tactics reigned supreme over everything. I realized that I had to forgive my abuser, bring him to justice, and create a way to bring awareness and protection for all children.
Over the course of about 7 months the book began to materialize but still had no title. I decided to incorporate a key to represent having the key to one’s life; as well as all children kNOwing the secrets of abuse so there will be NO secrets to ever keep.
What is your work or professional background and how did it lead to writing this book?
I’m currently pursuing a degree in Business Administration. I advocate and help others who have been abused and need support. I’ve always been a writer of poems and stories as a child; which was a way to vent during my troubled years and I knew that one day I’d write but I had no idea it would be a healing piece for myself that would help others. I kept many of my creative writing pieces from my teens in hopes of publishing other books in the near future.
Your book is a guide to talking to children about sexual abuse. All parents want to protect their children, but is sex abuse something they should be discussing with young kids?
As a parent, I understand first-hand how discussing sexual abuse with your children can be touchy. However, I’m always encouraged to remind parents that “if we don’t teach our children about sexual abuse, the abuser will.” I’ve heard some parents mention that they would rather wait or not expose their children to the idea of sexual abuse. Again, just because one refuses to acknowledge sexual abuse, does not mean it doesn’t exist. Of children who are sexually abused, 20% are abused before the age of 8 years old; 90% of those abused know their abuser (D2L.org).
We live in a society where our children are being taught about D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) but we have not made it mandatory to teach body safety as part of Elementary education. I commend the D.A.R.E. program and its importance, but I would love to see program of equal importance for sexual abuse prevention/awareness. Having sufficient preventative resources at school and at home could save a child’s life.
Who is your intended audience and how do you hope your readers will use your book?
My intended audience is parents, caretakers, teachers, familial groups, youth-serving organizations, and ALL children. I believe that kNOw Tiny Secrets is a great conversation starter and should be used in conjunction with talking to your children about sexual abuse on a regular basis.
You must first let your child know that they can talk with you about any concerns, no matter how hard it is for us to accept as parents. You are essentially creating a line of communication with your child; therefore you could be the one they confide in. It is helpful to role play and quiz your children to make sure they are confident about what to say in the event of abuse. Empowering our children is not a one-time conversation and you’re done; you must visit the topic regularly as your child grows and develops. I sometimes use sleepovers, family gatherings, or visits as an opportunity to remind my daughter about child sexual abuse prevention and safety protocol.
What did you learn from creating your book – either about the subject of the book or the creative process – that most surprised you?
I learned to have more patience in the creative process of kNOw Tiny Secrets. I felt compelled to have it all done just because it seemed overdue but life had other plans. The first illustrator that I chose for the book was one who was just right for my vision and what I wanted to bring to life. We shared ideas, family stories, and experiences. However, after about 4 months she decided to take on another project and I was devastated. I can remember driving in my car crying and feeling rejected because I was not equipped to pick another illustrator. I just knew she was the one and that was all I could wrap my mind around. A voice quickly reminded me that everything was okay and I could move on and find the right fit for the project despite how I felt.
I immediately drove home and got online to find the “one” once again. After sifting through about 3-4 artist profiles, I found a few that I liked but the last profile I came across was the “one.” I was blown away by Colleen Madden's sample features and I fell in love with the idea that she might consider working on my project, if I could get up enough nerve to send her a proposal. By the end of the day my close friend reminded me that I had to ask her to do my book no matter how awesome her work or how high her estimates were. She reminded me that if it was meant for me to have her, then a way would be made. Well that night I sent my proposal and we negotiated everything within a few days. I was thankful for her acceptance because the subject matter is one that some think twice about representing. Colleen had a lot of experience in areas that gave me an advantage when preparing my book. Had I not had her expertise, I probably would not have a book worth presenting to readers. Towards the end of my project's completion, I was notified that Colleen had completed a book for one of my favorite childhood singers -- that was my sign that it was meant for me from the beginning. While this book was stressful bringing it all together, it is a true reward.
You are a survivor of child sexual abuse yourself and an advocate for survivors. What resources would you recommend for survivors of child sexual abuse? Especially for survivors raising children of their own?
There are a some resources out there that I recommend personally for survivors of sexual abuse and one of my favorites is The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis, which is a for both men and women. The book is literally like a healing class that you can take and revisit as often as you like. This particular book also has a healing workbook that you may find helpful when dealing with the effects of abuse. You cannot rush healing, I believe it is something that has no deadline because you don’t heal to forget, but you find positive ways to cope. Another great book that I love for survivors who are parents is Trigger Points, edited by Joyelle Brandt and Dawn Daum; such an awesome compilation of raw poetic stories by survivors who are now parenting.
I believe in counseling/therapy as part of a healing plan; one in which you are comfortable with. There are local agencies, non-profits, advocacy centers, that offer victims assistance with costs of counseling. The side effects of sexual abuse are life-long; every person is affected differently. Before you can heal, you must face the truth. You must first rescue the child inside of you, so that you can have the will to save your own child. Darkness to Light is a nationally recognized organization that helps spread awareness, has updated statistics, and teaches organizations prevention courses. Tapping into the resources that suit your growth is what is most important. The ones that make you feel welcomed are the ones you should entertain.
What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given as a parent about protecting your children from sexual abuse?
Remembering that child sexual abuse has no face, age, gender, type, or limits. The ones that you trust are the ones you must pay close attention to. Typically, you don’t get something from nothing; therefore knowing the signs of sexual abuse, allows you to seek immediate help while giving unconditional support. We all have a duty when it comes to reporting abuse. As an adult, you are the responsible party when abuse is suspected, as well as upon disclosure. Helping to protect innocent children from abuse is a life-saving experience.
What other resources and information do you have about your book and teaching children about sexual abuse?
Find out more about the book and how to protect kids from sexual abuse:
The book website: www.knowtinysecrets.com
Facebook: Know Tiny Secrets LLC
PO Box 480536
Charlotte NC 28269
KNOW TINY SECRETS IS AVAILABLE ON LATASHA'S WEBSITE AND AMAZON, OR ASK YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER TO ORDER IT!