Preventing Abuse Through Story, Song

Miriam and Jenifer

Singer and song writer Miriam Pico, left, and storyteller Jenifer Strauss rehearse for their story time presentation, “My Body Belongs to Me,” for pre-schoolers and kindergarteners on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse at the Traverse Area District Library Woodmere Branch.

TRAVERSE CITY RECORD EAGLE

BY SARAH ELMS selms@record-eagle.com | October 11, 2015

TRAVERSE CITY — Jenifer Strauss and Miriam Pico aim to reduce child sexual abuse through story and song.

The local storyteller and singer-songwriter are teaming up with officials from the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center and the Traverse Area District Library to host a special story time geared toward young kids and their families.

“This topic is a sensitive one, but it’s also a really important one,” Strauss said.

Strauss and Pico will adapt stories and songs from children’s books like, “My Body Belongs to Me” by Jill Stareshevsky and “Some Secrets Should Never be Kept” by Jayneen Sanders at the Oct. 12 event.

Using stories and sing-along songs is a gentle way to spark a dialogue about protecting children and preventing abuse, said Cathy Lancaster, TADL Youth Services Coordinator.

“It’s really meant to leave them with the understanding that they control their space and their bodies and there is a difference between secrets and surprises,” Lancaster said. “It’s a tough conversation, but I think Jenifer and Miriam really present it more about empowering young children.”

Child sexual abuse impacts one in 10 children, and younger children often are the most at-risk, said Hannah Rodriguez, prevention coordinator at the CAC.

“Children are often sexually abused during preschool and kindergarten age because that’s when they’re the most vulnerable,” she said. “This is the age we want to start talking about it.”
The program is an encore of a similar story time held in April, brought back to the library at the request of community members.

Organizers are offering a late-morning and evening presentation to reach as many school groups, childcare centers and parents as possible.

“I think it’s such a sensitive topic that a lot of parents want to be there with their child,” Lancaster said. “I think there’s a lot for parents to learn as well in terms of how to speak with their children about these things and making children feel comfortable to confide in them.”

The CAC is in the early stages of applying for grants to fund similar programs at schools and libraries across the state.

“The goal is to put this show on the road so we can reach a larger audience, so it doesn’t stop here and the message continues,” Strauss said.

The two special story times are set for Oct. 12 at 11 a.m. and at 6:30 p.m. at the main library branch on Woodmere Avenue in Traverse City. Call the library’s youth services department at 231-932-8503 for more information or to register a group of 10 or more.

Storyteller Jenifer Strauss uses puppets Sniggle, left, and Snaggle as part of her presentation with singer and song writer Miriam Pico on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse.

Storyteller Jenifer Strauss uses puppets Sniggle, left, and Snaggle as part of her presentation with singer and song writer Miriam Pico on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse.

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