CTBHHM: Sexually Abused Children as Broken, Diseased

Created To Be His Help Meet,  pp. 185—186

This week we get to read the end of Debi’s chapter on loving one’s children.

The Hall

There is no permanent cure for genital herpes and many other forms of STDs. Yet one in five young teens in the USA has a sexually transmitted disease. Many statistics also tell us that one in four little girls will be sexually “messed with” by the time they are four years old. One in four little boys will be the victims of homosexual abuse. Our children are in grave danger in today’s world, not only from emotional trauma, but also from many of these diseases.

Am I the only one who feels like Debi’s primary concern vis a vis children being sexually abused is them contracting sexually transmitted diseases?

How many times will your little toddler wander down the hall (while you sit in a roomful of friends engrossed in a video) before some young “trustworthy” teenage boy slips silently in behind him or her and maneuvers her into the bathroom for a four-minute “session”? When the four minutes are up, your little child will emerge forever broken and diseased.

I’m pretty sure victims of sexual abuse would not like to be referred to as “forever broken and diseased.” And is it just me or is this more graphic than it needs to be? Also, what actual good advice is being provided here? What is Debi doing besides scaring her readers, and making them view every teenage boy with suspicion?

You cannot pray and expect God for supernatural intervention and protection. God has already provided for her through you. You can and must pray and ask God to make you a more attentive and sober parent, that you might better protect your children. You are your babies’ keeper. Please, keep them well.

And that is it.

Debi’s section here is brief and fairly terrible, but I do appreciate that she at least does give attention to this issue when so many others like her do not. In fact, she gives it so much attention that she has written two books for children called Samuel Learns to Yell and Tell and Sara Sue Learns to Yell and Tell. The byline of each book is “A Warning for Children against Sexual Predators.” So now I am going to turn to those books to get a better idea of how Debi handles this topic. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of either book and have not seen a copy of either. I am therefore going to rely on reviews of the books gathered from various places, mostly from Amazon. Perhaps at some point I will get a copy of each and do proper reviews.

First the positives. Debi works to cover this topic openly and honestly and in a way that isn’t scary. She works to come to the child’s level and do something many parents can’t figure out how to do. She encourages children to come tell their parents when something bad happens to them. This is good (except that there is apparently nothing in the book about what to do if your parent is your abuser, but we’ll get to that). She also tells children that “what’s yours is yours, what’s mine is mine,” which sounds very similar to some of the messages I try to teach my own preschool aged daughter—that her body is hers. There are parent resources in the back of the book that are not much discussed by the reviews, so I don’t know whether this message of bodily autonomy is backed up there or not, but it is at least presented to children, and that is positive.

Now the negatives. For this I want to quote from some Amazon reviews. Remember how there are two books, one for girls and one for boys? Well, it seems the content in each is completely different. The girls one features two sisters making puppets as the older one shares some advice with her younger sister. Among other things, it suggests that little girls should wear bloomers under their dresses for their protection. The boys one features a mother having a conversation with her son while the two do some work outside. Among other things, it puts having sexual thoughts in the same category of bad as being sexually molested (the girls one does not appear to discuss having sexual thoughts yourself, because duh).

Here is from a review of the Samuel book:

The book contains counsel from a mother to her son Samuel to warn him of ways sexual defilement could come into his life. The first is from a fellow playmate who shows Samuel his privates and asks to see his. Mother’s counsel is, “Now you know my little Samuel This is truly bad. So, I ask you now, Samuel son, Will you think it’s all in fun? Will you stay, or will you run?”

The second comes from a friend or family member who wins the trust of the family but secretly wants to sexually molest Samuel in some way and then convince him not to tell. “Will you do just as he says and keep his evil secret? or will you run and tell and yell? Will you be brave, my Samuel?” The goal in each situation is to make the deed public.

The third is an invitation to look at pornography. The fourth is similar to the first except that the boy is older and threatens Samuel if he tells. The fifth deals with lustful thoughts. In each case, Samuel is encouraged to tell his parents what has happened. He is not to heed threats or keep “little secrets” between friends.

In the book Samuel is not taught why the act is wrong or how to deal with the other person involved. He is simply taught how to identify a bad situation and how to respond, by fleeing and telling his authority what happened.

Yes, looking at pornography and having lustful thoughts are totally the same as being sexually molested and threatened. Except, you know, not. But this gets at something I’ve talked about—the two boxes. Fundamentalist Christians like Debi put sexual acts into an approved or not approved box based solely on whether they involve sex inside of marriage or sex outside of marriage rather than paying any mind to things like consent. Rape is the same as consensual premarital sex and, in Debi’s telling, sexual molestation is the same as having lustful thoughts. This is so horrifically twisted and toxic I don’t even know where to start.

Here is another review from the Samuel book:

While I don’t disagree with the basic advice to yell and tell, and I like that the book advises parents to talk openly with their children and to take measures to protect them, I would not recommend this book for parents or children, because I believe it to be inaccurate on many points. Here are some of the claims I think are inaccurate:

  • The pictures in pornographic magazines were taken by the devil.
  • “Peepee” is the appropriate way to teach a child to refer to his genitals.
  • “No one else should ever touch them” with no exceptions for hygiene or medical reasons.
  • Very young boys should worry that evil thoughts might overtake them.
  • The author will be present when God punishes all the child molesters on the day of judgment.

I’m not a resource expert in this field but I definitely think there are more accurate books on the same topic.

Not giving children anatomically correct names for their private parts is a problem, as is the blanket statement that no one should ever touch them. And of course, here again we get the bit about having lustful thoughts. Why is this even in a book ostensibly about protecting children from sexual predators? And then there’s the bit about evil and the devil.

Here is an excerpt from the Sara Sue book by the same reviewer as above:

While I don’t disagree with the basic advice to yell and tell, and I like that the book advises parents to talk openly with their children and to take measures to protect them, I would not recommend this book for parents or children, because I believe it to be inaccurate on many points.

Here are some of the things I think are inaccurate:

  • Dressing your daughter in pantaloons will prevent her from being molested.
  • “Down there” is the appropriate way to teach a child to refer to her genitals.
  • “No one else should ever touch them” with no exceptions for hygiene or medical reasons.
  • Very young girls should worry that peepers might be watching them when they play on the playground.
  • “Child molestation is sharply on the rise.” Citation?
  • Child molestation is sharply on the rise BECAUSE of porn (regular porn), daycare workers, and baby-sitters.

I’m not a resource expert in this field but I definitely think there are more accurate books on the same topic.

This bloomers thing bothers me, and I think it’s because it plays into the idea that women can protect themselves from rape by dressing in a certain way. It also suggests to girls who are molested that if they had just protected themselves by wearing bloomers under their dresses this wouldn’t have happened to them.

Here is another review of the Sara Sue book:

I have two precious daughters and a son so when I heard about “Sara Sue Learns to Yell & Tell” by Debi Pearl and have a chance to review the book, I quickly agreed. This 40 page fully illustrated and colored paper back book begins with a big sister, Sara Sue and little sister, Pearlie going out to make a puppet together as the big sister begins to tell of the warning she was given on sexual predators. This word is never actually used in the book and in place of specific body parts Debi uses the words “private parts” – so this is good for both younger children as well as slightly older children.

The book is done in rhyming style which I think helps keep the children’s attention as well as the repetitive nature will hopefully help aid in the retention of the facts given in this very important book. I like how they make pantaloons for their puppets but this also serves a greater purpose in reminding young girls in their dresses that we have to be modest because we never know who may be standing under us. The story ends with Pearlie practicing her yell and tell – so that she is prepared should anyone try to do anything bad to her.

And there the bloomers thing is again, this time explicitly tied to modesty teachings. Again, this makes me severely uncomfortable. When the best course of action is to teach children that they are in charge of their own bodies, the bloomers discussion makes the solution modesty.

Here are excerpts from a few more reviews of either book:

This book . . . talks about spoiling your soul and dirtying your mind, god and the devil, not the message I was wanting to send to my kids.

This book really fails on all levels. . . . It puts all sex in a negative context and skirts the issue of masturbation by only hinting at the idea that a child might explore but calls it evil. It fails to discuss any positive aspect of sex or the natural curiosity children have about sex. The only description of anything anatomical given is a “peepee” and “down there” which then leaves children requiring an explanation of what a “peepee” and “down there” are. And then everything is associated as “evil” or from the “devil”.

I have issues with the fact that they do not address abuse within the family. I felt the implication was that the abuser would usually be a stranger or slight aquantiance, but most of the time it is actually someone who is quite close to the family. It also emphasizes the “badness” without clarifying that the child themself is not bad, the abuser is seeking to do bad things.

Because of Debi’s comment about sexually abused children being forever broken and diseased, I’m more than a little concerned about what these reviews say about the emphasis on things being dirty and evil. Children who are sexually abused often keep the secret because they feel that they are now dirty, used, and worthless. If there is nothing in Debi’s books that contradicts this, and if instead her words appear to confirm it, that is a very serious problem. When you combine that with the fact that masturbation is cast in the same light as sexual molestation, and that girls can protect themselves by wearing bloomers under their dresses, I just don’t see anything at all redeemable about these books.

I poked around Amazon a little bit looking at the competition. I Said No! starts with a preface affirming children’s normal, natural, and healthy sexual exploration. Your Body Belongs to You has a preface warning parents against forcing their children to give hugs or to kiss grandma. I’m willing to bet quite a bit that either of these books would be head and shoulders above anything Samuel Learns to Yell and Tell and Sara Sue Learns to Yell and Tell even pretend to be.

From what I have read by Michael and Debi, it’s evident that they really do abhor child sexual abuse. However, it appears that for them sexual abuse of children is wrong not because it runs roughshod over consent but rather because it’s sex, and God says sex and sexy thoughts outside of marriage is evil. Interestingly, another thing the reviews pointed out is that neither the Amazon description nor the book’s cover mentions that there’s anything in the book about God or religion. In fact, it appears from the reviews that a sizable number of people bought the books thinking they were completely legitimate and written by an expert on the subject, only to be blindsided by the constant discussion of “evil” and “the devil.” I have to wonder if this was intentional.

There is now only one last line to Debi’s chapter on loving your children:

The book To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl is a must-read for every mama who loves her kids and wants them to be happy, obedient, hardworking, and smart. Check it out at the nogreaterjoy.org website.

Now that one’s a whole additional load of toxic.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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