BE MY GUEST: EXCLUSIVE Author Interview: Jill Starishevsky

When I was a school-going kid, my dad used to drop me to school in our car and during the ride of 30 minutes from my house to school, he used to talk to us about various issues which majority of parents is not comfortable in teaching their kids. Apart from general manners, he taught us about child abuse, sexual and otherwise (physical abuse such as teachers hitting or spanking the kid as a punishment). Those lectures delivered in a casual manner made me much more aware and mature than my peers, because none of my friends’ parents used to have those talks with their kids. For them, it was a “taboo” to discuss such “sensitive” topics with their kids. 

Well, that was the case in Pakistan but I am pretty sure that in developed countries like America and England, some parents think the same way and do not develop that “comfort level” with their kids so they can share each and everything and keep no secrets due to fear or hesitation.

Dear folks, you must be thinking why I am sharing all this with you. Well, the reason is my today’s guest
, Jill Starishevsky, who is here to talk about her book on child abuse, “My Body Belongs to Me”. Read my exclusive interview with her to find out about her work, her appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and her struggle to make the society free of such crimes by founding an organization to help the children stay safe from abusers. Let's hear from her:

RG: Tell us about yourself. Besides being an author of “My Body Belongs to Me”. What do you do professionally?

I have been a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City for the past 14 years. Early on in my career, I discovered that children don’t disclose right away when they have been sexually abused. By the time I see the children they are already hurt. This book is my attempt to get in front of the problem. I am also the founder of HowsMyNanny.com, a service where parents can purchase a license plate for their stroller that enables the public to report good or bad nanny observations. Registered parents instantaneously receive an email alerting them to the confidential reports so as to help open the lines of communication and keep children safe. I am also the head writer at ThePoemLady.com where I pen customized poems for all occasions.

RG: Coming to your book, tell us about it in detail. How did this idea of writing on such a sensitive topic come to you?

I had two children of my own and wanted to talk to them about a subject that I am painfully aware of and realized there was nothing out there to guide parents in having this discussion. From my years of experience, I knew the importance of having this conversation. About ten years earlier, I had prosecuted a case at trial where an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show prompted the child victim’s outcry after three years of silence. It occurred to me that all it took to end her nightmare was a television show that encouraged her to tell a teacher. I decided that I needed to make that message more accessible to children and spread it as far as I could.

RG: How was the experience of appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show and how was it helpful in spreading the message of your book?

Appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show this year was an amazing experience. Given that Oprah was instrumental in encouraging the child in my trial to disclose, it really felt as though things had come full circle when the child victim, at 20 years old, appeared alongside me on the show. Obviously Oprah's audience is worldwide and it has had an unbelievable impact on my ability to spread the message contained in My Body Belongs to Me. I am now represented by a literary agent who is seeking a larger publisher for the book and hope to have it translated into other languages so as to help protect children all over the world.

RG: How would you define, “Child Abuse” and general “Sex crimes”?

Child abuse is any crime that involves a child whether it is physical, sexual or involves neglect. Sex crimes are any crime having to do with sex whether it involves an adult or child.

RG: From so many cases that you have dealt, how would you explain the most common responses to abuse among children (who get abused)? Who are the abusers (uncles, aunts, strangers etc.)? Would you like to give the parents some tips/suggestions on how they can talk to their children about their safety?

93% of all child sexual abuse occurs at the hands of someone within the child's inner circle. Most children do not tell anyone when they have been abused. They are often confused, embarrassed, scared and feel they will not be believed. Many times the perpetrator tells the child to keep it a secret and the children comply.

Just as we teach children about the dangers associated with crossing the street or going near a hot oven, we must talk to them about recognizing and avoiding threatening encounters with child predators. I have a short list of “tips” that have helped me talk to my children about safety. Here are some suggestions:

1. No secrets. Period. Encourage your children to tell you about things that happen to them that make them feel scared, sad or uncomfortable. If children have an open line of communication, they will be more inclined to alert you to something suspicious before it becomes a problem. The way I effectuate this rule is as follows: If someone, even a grandparent, were to say something to my child such as “I’ll get you an ice cream later, but it will be our secret,” I firmly, but politely say “We don’t do secrets in our family.” Then I say to my child “Right? We don’t do secrets. We can tell each other everything.”

2. Teach your child the correct terms for their body parts. This will make them more at ease if they need to tell you about a touch that made them feel uncomfortable.

3. Let children decide for themselves how they want to express affection. Children should not be forced to hug or kiss if they are uncomfortable. Even if they are your favorite aunt, uncle or cousin, your child should not be forced to be demonstrative in their affection. While this may displease you, by doing this, you will empower your child to say no to inappropriate touching.

Here is another television appearance of the author where she discusses more on this topic in detail. Click on the link below to go to ABC News interview with the author:

RG: Can you share with us the statistics of this crime. How many such cases are dealt with on annual or monthly basis in America?

In the United States, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused by the age of 18.

RG: I think that writing on “child abuse” is a daring but much-needed step in the right direction. Not many of us know or are aware of how to deal with such children or are too shy to talk about these things in public. Do you plan on writing more books on this topic in future?

I agree that most parents are apprehensive about addressing this subject. Many feel they do not know what to say or fear they might scare a child so they avoid the discussion altogether. “My Body Belongs to Me” is intended for children ages 3-8. As children get older, this discussion needs to be revisited. It is my hope to write another book geared toward children 8-12 so parents can continue to have an aid in facilitating this important dialogue. I also have my eye on cyber crimes as it relates to children and hope to write on that subject as well.

RG: In third-world countries like Pakistan and India, abusers and rapists do not get punished for their heinous crimes. What would be your advice to people (adults and children both) who face sex abuse but do not know whom to turn to for help or how to stop it from happening? Is there any international body/organization that can be approached to report such cases?

That is a terrific question. In the U.S., each state has several Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) that provide services to children who have been sexually abused. There are 700 CACs in the States and they are run by the National Children's Alliance. The NCA website has a great deal of information on line that parents may find useful. In addition, an indispensable resource for American victims of any form of domestic abuse is the American Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center whose founder, Paula Lucas, was herself a victim of abuse at the hands of her husband while living abroad. Their international toll-free number is 866-USWOMEN. Others suggest reaching out to the media and getting others to support you in marching against violence.

RG: Thank you for enlightening my readers about your book and giving such useful information about “sex abuse”. It was a great honour to have you on my blog today. I wish you much success in your noble cause of creating awareness and saving children from becoming a victim of such crimes. All the best for your book!

About the Author:

Jill Starishevsky is an Assistant District Attorney in New York City, where she has prosecuted hundreds of sex offenders and dedicated her career to seeking justice for victims of child abuse and sex crimes. Outside the courtroom, Jill's fondness for writing led her to create thepoemlady.com, where she pens personalized pieces. Her mission to protect children, along with her penchant for poetry, inspired “My Body Belongs to Me”, a children's book intended to prevent child sexual abuse by teaching 3-8 year olds their bodies are private. A mother of three, Jill is also founder of HowsMyNanny.com, a service that enables parents to purchase a license plate for their child's stroller so the public can report positive or negative nanny observations. 

Contact Information:
Jill Starishevsky
Prosecutor, Child Abuse/Sex Crime
Author, My Body Belongs to Me

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About the Book:
My Body Belongs to Me:

Speaking to children on their own terms, this critically acclaimed book sensitively establishes boundaries for youngsters. In a non-threatening, engaging manner, this guide teaches kids that when it comes to their body, there are some parts that are for “no one else to see” and empowers them to tell a parent or teacher if someone touches them inappropriately. Telling the story of a gender-neutral child who is inappropriately touched by an uncle’s friend, this tale delivers a powerful moral when the youngster reveals the offender and the parents praise the child’s bravery. Most importantly, this narrative assures young ones that sexual molestation is not their fault, and by speaking out, the child will continue to grow big and strong. A “Suggestions for the Storyteller” section is also included to assist in facilitating a comfortable discussion afterwards, thereby helping to prevent the unthinkable from happening to any child. With inspirational rhyming and beautiful illustrations, this is a compelling and uplifting message of what is right and wrong. - (Courtesy: Amazon.com)

To buy this book, click on the links given below:

Book Website: http://www.mybodybelongstome.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/My-Body-Belongs-Jill-Starishevsky/dp/0982121601/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1

Also available at Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/my-body-belongs-to-me-jill-starishevsky/1016050428?ean=9780982121603&itm=1&usri=starishevsky

Note from Review Girl: If you would like to share your views on "child abuse" or have some related story to share, feel free to talk about it in comments section below. Are you a parent? Do you think your kids hold no secrets from you? Do you think you have given them enough confidence and understanding on this subject? Discuss it here as there is nothing more important than safety of our kids!


  1. What a wonderful interview! I wish something like this book would have been around when I was a child.

  2. Fantastic, Komal!
    Congratulations on the interview with Jill - awesome!
    What a fabulous review post!!

  3. Oh, wow. Brilliant. And, thank god, someone else is writing about this, addressing it, bringing it out into the open. My mother went back to college at the age of 35, got her BS, then her Masters of Social Work and began her career working with sexually abused children as young as two years old. It was the hardest and most rewarding experience for her, and I couldn't be more proud that she extended herself to help these children and that, through her, I became aware of this situation.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  4. What an essential, meaningful post, interview, and book. I agree that open communication is the only way to end--and the best weapon against--these predators. A child who talks is a child who's safe--and a parent or caregiver who listens is the best way to get a child to talk. Thanks, Debbi & Jill.

  5. @Elisabeth: Yes! I could not agree more! I think every parent should read this book along with their kids. Your comments are always a great support! xx

    @Patricia: Thanks so much, dear. I am so pleased that Jill chose my blog to connect with the readers. It is an honour to have her and it feels great to spread a good message around through my blog. I have always been a great advocate of such causes.

    @Kat: I am so glad that this post made a deep impact on everybody. I must say we need more people like your mother and Jill, who can bring this out in the open and work diligently to make this world a safe place for children. Kudos to your mother!

    @Jenny: What a beautiful statement! "A child who talks is a child who's safe--and a parent or caregiver who listens is the best way to get a child to talk." Communication is the best solution to end this. If the parent-child bond is strong, such crimes can be prevented from happening. Thanks for being a regular commentator on my blog.

  6. Excellent interview. I didn't even know about this book. I have a three year old boy and its something i do worry about, along with everything else, that he might be abused in some way. Wow, the stroller license plate idea is genius! Getting this book ASAP. Thank You, Review girl. And I'm definitely going to start following your blog. Mine is at http://sheana-ochoa.blogspot.com/

  7. You must be finding it ironic, Komal, that Jill Starishevsky is your featured guest just when the Penn State story makes headlines. Your anecdotal introduction brings a valuable cultural perspective to the issue and is a perfect lead-in to a thought-provoking interview.

  8. @Sheana: I am happy that this interview is helping me getting the message across. Give my love to your little angel and I pray that he stay safe and sound!
    I am going to check out your blog right now!:) Thanks for following mine.

    @Deborah: I think it would have been incomplete without my personal reference to the subject ...yes...it brings out my take on the topic and lets Western people understand that people in countries like India and Pakistan also face same issues and measures to tackle with the problems of this kind. Your feedback made my day!

  9. I appreciate this interview so much, especially because I have a daughter with Down syndrome. Some parents of such children do not teach them about touching, hugging, what's appropriate and what's not, but it's so much more important to them because they are often easy victims. Thank you for the info, and Write On!

  10. @jmrinaldo: Thank you so much for your encouraging words..really helps me in searching for more informative stuff for my readers. :)

  11. Great interview with good discussion on a subject that really needs to be discussed. Bravo to Jill for her work in this area. The book looks wonderful!

  12. Thanks Carol for your positive feedback, means a lot to me and of course to Brave Jill.


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