Monday, October 5, 2009

"Teaching Children To Trust, To Tell," written by Susan Campbell, was published on April 28, 2009 by The Hartford Courant. The article was recently archived by the paper, accessible only for a fee, however, the Courant has graciously agreed to let me post it here, fully credited, in its entirety. Thank you to Susan for a beautiful article and to the Courant for allowing me to post.


    Susan Komisar Hausman settles herself onto a dinky preschooler's chair too small for a 7-year-old, much less an adult woman.
    But Hausman is on a mission.
    She has in hand her new book, "Kisses From Dolce: A Book for Children About Trusting and Telling," a story about a little girl named Sophia and Dolce (Italian for "sweet"), a dog she befriends.
    In the story, Sophia one day withdraws from the class - even beloved Dolce - and works up her nerve to tell her teacher that someone is touching her inappropriately. The story ends happily. Her teacher "made some phone calls to people she knew who could make things better. Thank goodness! Phew!"
    It is a story with which Hausman is all too familiar. At age 7, a trusted family friend in his 40s molested her. She told no one until she was in her late 40s, and her parents believed and supported her.
    So her story ended happily, too, "but who wants to wait until you're 48 years old?" says Hausman, who has also written poetry. "That's always been the driving force behind this book. If one little one who hears this story would turn to someone they trust and say, 'I need help,' it will have been worth it. It comes from that place."
    Today, Hausman has come from her Massachusetts home to read "Dolce" with other volunteers to all 71 Community Renewal Team preschool classes scattered around six towns, including Hartford. That's nearly 1,300 students, and she's joined by Department of Children and Families Commissioner Susan I. Hamilton, and state Sen. John Fonfara, D-1st District, in conjunction with Child Abuse Prevention Month.
    Everyone put their own spin when they read the book aloud, but their shared message was: If someone's touching you, and you feel bad, tell someone you trust, and keep telling until it stops.
    Hausman settles in under the watchful eye of Stacy Luna, a CRT teacher and a fierce and smiling woman who looks as though she can part water just by raising her eyebrows. Luna talks to the children about safe touch all the time, she says. These are her children, and they are what keep her coming in.
    The 10 children in Miss Stacy's class today - ages 3 to 5 - sit cross-legged on the floor, crackling with energy and quick to shoot their hands skyward when Hausman asks a question.
    "Who should Sophia tell?" asks Hausman as she starts reading the story.
    The answers come quickly: Her mom. Her dad. Her aunt. Her grandpa. Her teacher, to which Luna interjects: "Because Miss Stacy is here to keep you - what?"
    "Safe!" the children answer.
    "Do we keep secrets about touching?" asks Hausman.
    "Nooo!" the children cry.
    "That's right," says Hausman. "We tell, and we keep telling until it stops."
    When Hausman finishes the book, a tiny boy sitting in the corner pops up and asks, "Can I give you a hug?"
    Hausman says yes and is soon smothered in a clutch of preschoolers throwing their arms around her, and each other.
    Afterward, Hausman says quietly, "They had a workshop or something. Did you hear them ask? 'Can I give you a hug?' "    

*To purchase "Kisses From Dolce," e-mail: 

 To see the photo "Just After The Group Hug Broke Up" on Susan Campbell's blog, "Fear Itself", click here.


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