• Kahit walang sugat o pasa, nakasasakit din ang salita.” (“Even if they leave no physical wounds or bruises, words can cause pain.”)

    So go the words of Filipino author Augie Rivera, in his children’s book Mantsa, which tells the story of a child who is a victim of verbal abuse.

    Child abuse can actually take different forms, and awareness is key in preventing it from happening in our communities. One way to raise awareness is to actually be open with the topic, and this is why authors like Rivera have written children’s books about it.

    Help spread the message about child abuse and how to prevent it with this list of books recommended by teacher, librarian, storyteller and published author Zarah Gagatiga.

    1. Mantsa
    Story by Augie Rivera, illustrated by Jason Sto. Domingo

    IMAGE serjbumatay.blogspot.com

    Rivera’s story revolves around a child whose parents verbally abuse him--and the abuse is so bad that the hurtful words he regularly hears become like stains or “mantsa” that mark his body.

    Rivera shares a bit about this unique book: “Mantsa was a story commissioned by Plan International for its Positive Discipline campaign. It was published in 2013 by Adarna House and Plan, but is not available in bookstores. Plan distributes it to communities where they sponsor positive discipline workshops to parents and children.”

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    2. Ang Lihim ni Lea
    Story by Augie Rivera, illustrated by Ghani Madueño

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    Another compelling read is Augie Rivera's Ang Lihim ni Lea, which addresses the often taboo topic of child sexual abuse. Lea, the main character, thinks she has a special “power” which, apparently, is her way of coping with the abuse she suffers at the hands of her own father.

    Published in 2007 by Adarna House and Soroptimist International of Hope Baguio, Rivera is able to give a voice to the many child sexual abuse victims in the Philippines (and elsewhere). Through Lea’s story, readers can get a glimpse of how the victim--as is often the case in child sexual abuse--falls prey to the malicious intentions of someone known to her, like a relative or close family member.

    Lea’s story also shows the important role of other influential people in children’s lives. In Lea’s case, it was one of her teachers, Cynthia, who was able to spot signs of abuse, and help her overcome the trauma.

    Included in Ang Lihim ni Lea is a children’s guide called “Three Touching Rules,” which helps readers who may be at risk of abuse.

    According to Rivera, the book is still available at the Adarna Showroom in Scout Torillo, Quezon City or click here for its website.

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    3. Ang Batang Ayaw Gumising
    Written by Rene O. Villanueva, illustrated by John D. Crisostomo

    IMAGE site.renevillanuevaph.com

    The book tells the story of Tina, a little girl who is being abused by her uncle. Villanueva does not graphically describe the abuse in words, but Crisostomo’s illustrations are able to show Tina’s terror and trauma.

    Tina’s story, which shows her closing her eyes and not wanting to open them even as life goes on around her, shows how the many victims of child abuse cope with the horror of their experiences. They attempt to “shut off” the outside world by “escaping” into their own little world.

    This book definitely does not make for a typical bedtime read-aloud, but it is definitely one that deserves to be read, especially if we are to approach the subject of abuse in children.

    However, parents and everyone involved in the care of children should take note that Ang Batang Ayaw Gumising was deemed a “controversial” book because of its content, so they should take caution before choosing to read it to and with their children.

    It should also be noted that it is not available in local bookstores. Published in 1997, it was a work commissioned by UNICEF-Manila as part of a book series about the “rights of the child.” Copies of the book were distributed for free to daycare centers in Manila and other parts of the country.

    Needless to say, the subject of child abuse--in whatever form--is a sensitive one, and one that should be approached with wisdom and care, especially if your objective is to teach your child how to prevent it from happening.

    Of course, one of the best ways to protect your child is to equip him or her with adequate knowledge, and teach him to discern what is considered “safe” and “unsafe.” If you think that your child is ready to learn about this topic, you can use resources from websites like Pandora’s Project and Kidpower.

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