Ugandan Children’s Book Empowers Kids to Speak Out Against Sexual Abuse

This author hopes to empower children to report it.

(Photo: CMG Africa/Twitter)

Aug 21, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Tales of teddy bears searching for buttons, insatiable caterpillars, and magical lands with friendly monsters tend to dominate story time. But one Ugandan American author wants parents to start reading their kids a book with a more urgent message.

Designed for parents to read to their kids, The Bad Touch, written by Lillian Butele Kelle, addresses sexual abuse. In child-friendly terms, a mom explains different forms of abuse and how her children, Tamu and Tito, can protect themselves and report it. The book hit Ugandan bookstores on Friday.

Kelle thinks it’s “probably the most important book [she] will ever write,” she told Ugandan outlet BigEye. Kelle endured sexual abuse from a family friend when she was just seven years old and still living in Uganda. “I wish I had read such a book as a child,” she said. “Perhaps my own abuse could have been prevented.”

In addition to lessons for children, the book also contains resources for adults and teachers.

Sexual abuse is the most prevalent form of child abuse in Uganda, with young girls the most common victims, according to research from the African Network for Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect. Abuse cases often go unreported, as individuals keep quiet rather than bring shame to their families. An exact figure is difficult to determine, but a 2011 study estimated that 65 percent of Ugandan children had experienced some form of sexual abuse.

“We as a society have clearly failed in the fight against this silent epidemic, but we can turn the tide by empowering the target group and that is our children,” Kelle told BigEye. “If we teach our children to recognize this evil, then they are more likely to say no, to resist, to run, and to tell.”